Western Illinois University is preparing to cut $4 million out of its budget for the fiscal year that begins Wednesday, July 1, despite continued uncertainty in Springfield.
Budget Director Matt Bierman said the university plans save money by reducing operational costs, realigning a department, and through attrition.
“We’ve done everything we can all along to protect our employees to shield them from any hurt, any active employees. That becomes harder and harder as we move forward and there will be a few places where we reduce staff as part of this particular process,” Bierman said.
The state budget proposal drafted by Democrats last month and vetoed by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner last week would have cut state aid next fiscal year to the university by about $4.5 million, or 8.6% compared to the original Fiscal Year 2015 appropriation.
“We don’t know whether to be disappointed because he vetoed something that would of cut us or not. Certainly we want to be cut less but we don’t know where we are going to end up. It’s just unknown," Bierman said.
Western is also holding off on pay raises for non-union employees for the time being.
Bierman said the veto changes the timeline for the university. He said Western will be okay through the summer because of past financial conservation measures and will be able to buy more time once student tuition payments arrive for fall semester. But, proposed funding cuts would still require Western to dip into its $22 million reserve fund.
“This is a time of great strain but at the same time it is a chance for us, as a campus, to step up and lead through this process and figure out what we need to do and who we need to be as a campus so that we emerge on the back side of this and I don’t know when the backside happens,” Bierman said.
“I think we are in a couple years of pretty heavy struggle here, but we need to make the right decisions and have the collaboration with the campus to emerge at the end of this stronger than what we actually were going into this.”
Bierman said Governor Rauner's veto could also affect MAP funding, which benefits in-state college students eligible for financial aid. He said about 3,000 Western students were promised MAP grants for the fall semester.
“Come August do we have the ability to start awarding those to the students who were promised those?” Bierman said he is waiting to hear back from the Governor’s office regarding whether students will still receive promise MAP funding.