Budget Mess Causing Cash Flow Concerns

Macomb, IL – Western Illinois University is traversing uncharted territory as it deals with the fallout from the state's budget mess.

"You're talking about a 50% potential reduction in budget. There's no way you can plan for that," said WIU President Al Goldfarb told the Board of Trustees. "It's not like planning for a 10% reduction that you know about in advance."

Cash flow issues were a major topic of discussion during the BoT's quarterly meeting in December. You can listen to the discussion by clicking on the audio button.

The state owes WIU $30 million in payroll. The university has been told it can expect a payment of more than $6 million on Monday (December 21).

Western is not the only public university in Illinois facing this problem. WIU Director of Business Services Ron Ward said the University of Illinois is owed $354 million in payroll, Southern Illinois University is owed $105 million, Illinois State is owed $46.6 million, and Eastern Illinois University is owed $43 million. He did not have the figure for Northern Illinois University but believes it tops $50 million.

WIU Budget Director Julie Dewees said the university cannot control what happens with the state. Instead, the university is focused on what it can control - which is its spending.

No Money for Maintenance Either

WIU will sell Certificates of Participation to cover the cost of some improvement projects. A student fee will be used to pay for the certificates, which upsets a BoT member.

Trustee Michael Houston said the student fee is supposed to be used for things that directly benefit students. He said the state should be providing money for repair work.

"This is an absolute crime, in my opinion," said Houston. "This state is just shirking its duties in terms of paying for basic infrastructure."

Western will sell up to $12 million worth of the certificates. The board unanimously approved the sale. Houston said he agreed to go along with it because the work is desperately needed.

Renovation of the heating plant will cost $5 million, replacement of steam lines that serve four academic buildings and six residence halls will cost $5 million, and the installation of sprinkler systems in student housing will cost an estimated $1.5 million.

The university says the steam line project will include the construction of tunnels to replace original direct buried steam lines.