Voice of The Southern: Thumbs up to candidates, thumbs down to lack of budget yet again

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Thumbs down to the 639 days that Illinois has been without a budget. Locally, we felt the sting again Wednesday when Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn said the Carbondale campus is going to have to find $30 million in potential cuts because of the lack of state funding and declining enrollment. Oh, and that’s on top of the $21 million in cuts the university previously identified. It’s not a good situation. Lawmakers need to get together on a budget, and it has to happen soon. No more delaying. No more politics. Our state’s universities can’t keep going on like this. Neither can anybody else. Just get it done.

Thumbs up to all of the local candidates vying for spots in next week’s municipal elections. Running for public office is difficult, and very time constraining. It also takes a special kind of person to be in the public eye like many of them will be. Running for election can also take its toll on a family. On Tuesday, we’ll go out to the polls and vote on anything from school boards to city councils to mayors. Some candidates will win, some will lose. But everybody running for a spot should be noticed. These are our future leaders, the leaders that will shape city government in the coming years.

Thumbs down to U.S. Representative John Shimkus for a series of tweets March 24 concerning what appeared to be the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The tweets involved stories from constituents outlining their complaints with the ACA and were accompanied by this statement, “My constituents have judged that law, and more than 60 votes I’ve cast to repeal & replace it, through 7 years and 4 election cycles.” To be perfectly clear, Mr. Shimkus was perfectly within his rights to Tweet the information. But, the Tweets, combined with Mr. Shimkus’ statement, seemed to suggest a unanimous opinion that doesn’t exist.

Thumbs up to John Mann of Pinckneyville who is retiring after a long career at Mann and Son Sporting Goods in Pinckneyville. Mann is selling the business to a long-time employee, but he is stepping aside to enjoy some fishing and shooting himself. In addition to the traditional sporting goods business, Mann became a master gunsmith, one of eight premier Remington repair locations in the United States.

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Thumbs up to the annual 11 Days of Compassion being observed in Carbondale. The observance, sponsored by Nonviolent Carbondale runs from April 1-11. Given the troubling amount of violent crime Carbondale has experienced in the past couple years, this observance is a welcome offering. “It’s exploring compassion, dialogue, conflict resolution and embracing diversity in the community,” said Diana Brawley Sussman, one of the event’s organizers and the director of the Carbondale Public Library. “We were really looking for programs that will develop a communication skill set, and we were looking for opportunities to put (people) in other peoples’ shoes.” The observance includes programs, panel discussions and documentary showings. Compassion is something we can all aspire to.

Thumbs up to Ryan Povolish of Carbondale for catching a state record crappie at Kinkaid Lake this week. As response on social media indicates, catching a state record fish is big news in Illinois — at least in this part of the state. For those in the ichthyological weeds, Povolish caught a 4 pound, 8.8 ounce black crappie in Kinkaid Lake, topping the previous record for a scant .06 of an ounce. The previous record, set at Rend Lake, had stood for nearly 40 years.








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March 31, 2017 at 08:01AM

Voice of The Southern: Thumbs up to candidates, thumbs down to lack of budget yet again

SWIC cuts 19 administrator positions, raises tuition fees

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In a cost-saving measure, the Southwestern Illinois College Board of Trustees unanimously approved cutting 19 administrators at its meeting Wednesday night as well as increasing tuition and fees for its students.

The reductions in force are effective July 1 and will result in a salary savings of nearly $1.2 million, according to a news release.

SWIC President Georgia Costello read the following statement during the board of trustees meeting Wednesday:

“New contracts for many upstanding professional administrators will not be extended after June 30, as approved by the Southwestern Illinois College Board at its March 29 meeting. While these non-renewals of positions were not about people or performance, that doesn’t make it any easier, here at SWIC, or at every other affected state college and university.

“Recent steep losses in state funding, corresponding statewide enrollment declines, and the continuing state budget impasse have formed a perfect storm that has lasted nearly two years, and counting. The impact on state colleges and universities has been devastating, requiring some to start force reductions much earlier.

“Our ability to stem the tide for as long as we have, to see if things might change for the better, was only made possible because everyone pulled together to take on additional duties as vacated positions went unfilled; to define and adopt new work-flow processes to increase efficiency; all while maintaining SWIC’s historically high national and state rankings when it comes to awarding degrees and certificates.”

$109 per credit hour — previous tuition cost

$113 per credit hour — new tuition cost

The employees affected by the reductions are as follows:

▪  Academic adviser: Jeffrey Baltes

▪  Assistant director of athletics for compliance and academics/head softball coach: Katherine Bernal

▪  Coordinator of college activities and theater operations: Jeffrey Blue

▪  Program development specialist: Linda Boyce

▪  Director of nursing education and health related occupations: Carol Eckert

▪  Vice president for marketing and institutional advancement: Michael Fleming

▪  Systems analyst/programmer: Raymond Frost

▪  Part-time academic adviser: Denise Krivokuca

▪  Senior training specialist: Debra Lassman

▪  Evening and college activities supervisor, Sam Wolf Granite City Campus: Jill Lorance

▪  Custodial/maintenance shift supervisor: David Parker

▪  Account executive: Tricia Poettker

▪  Communication specialist: Melanie Reinhardt

▪  Director of Selsius corporate and career training: Lynette Rienbolt

▪  Network operations center manager: Paul Rousselot

▪  Part-time academic adviser: Jennifer Selden

▪  Assistant director of community education: Jay Stokes

▪  Communications specialist/associate director: Kelly Turner

▪  Manager of testing, data, and records: Jenny Wieland

While these non-renewals of positions were not about people or performance, that doesn’t make it any easier, here at SWIC, or at every other affected state college and university.

SWIC President Georgia Costello

The latest board action follows last fall’s approval of the voluntary retirement of 12 individuals. The voluntary retirement program was offered to employees as a way “to reduce the size and cost of SWIC’s work force,” according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The program cost SWIC $461,971 in payments to those individuals who took advantage of it.

The news release details the loss of state funding SWIC has endured the last several years. In fiscal 2015, the college received $13.5 million in funding. In fiscal 2016, the funding dropped by 87 percent to $1.6 million. During the current fiscal year, SWIC has received $6.7 million, which is 50 percent, of credit-hour reimbursements and tax-levy equalization funds, according to the news release.

SWIC has experienced a decline in enrollment over the last three fiscal years as well. According to figures provided by the college, 18,706 students attended the college during fiscal 2016, which was a decline from 19,845 students in fiscal 2015 and 20,743 students in fiscal 2014.

The board of trustees also unanimously approved tuition and fee increases during its meeting on Wednesday. Starting this summer, tuition will increase from $109 per credit hour to $113 per credit hour, and fees covering student activities and information technology will increase from $5 to $9 per credit hour.

SWIC cuts 19 administrator positions, raises tuition fees

John Wood Community College plans budget amid uncertainty over state funding

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Illinois colleges have very little certainty over what kind of state funding they will receive as they plan their budgets this year.  

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March 30, 2017 at 09:56PM

John Wood Community College plans budget amid uncertainty over state funding

In letter to SIU System, Dunn proposes Carbondale campus cut $30 million, borrow from Edwardsville

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CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn on Wednesday issued a difficult directive to the Carbondale campus to identify $30 million in potential cuts to address a structural deficit caused by a double whammy of declining enrollment and the “governmental abomination” playing out in Springfield.

The arduous undertaking has been underway for months, but Dunn, in a letter to the campus community, put a hard number to the immediate call for cuts: $30 million in cost reductions to be identified by July 1, on top of the $21 million in cuts the university previously identified.

Dunn also is planning to recommend that SIU Board of Trustees members declare a short-term financial emergency for the Carbondale campus. Dunn said that would signify that the Carbondale campus is operating in deficit mode — it will potentially dip into the red next month — and serve as a warning system to indicate that an even more serious situation could be on the horizon without corrective action.

In his letter and in an interview with The Southern Illinoisan on Wednesday afternoon, Dunn also said that the Carbondale campus may have to borrow from the unrestricted funds of the Edwardsville campus because the Carbondale campus has already tapped its own available reserves, in addition to some associated with the SIU School of Medicine. Though community colleges and K-12 schools have the ability to borrow money to make ends meet, public universities do not have that option.

“The adjustments have to get made, the decisions have to get made, to right the financial ship, to prevent getting into a situation where you have to do drastic measures such as laying off tenured faculty or closing down large chunks of the university operating system,” Dunn said.

Dunn said the Carbondale campus, under the direction of Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell, is charged with identifying the specific savings, though Dunn surmised that cuts, both short- and long-term, could include layoffs, the elimination of most positions that are budged for but unfilled, centralization of hiring, a potential reduction of departments and/or programs, and increased teaching loads for tenured faculty members no longer actively engaged in research.

Shortly after Dunn’s letter went out, Colwell issued one of his own to the Carbondale campus that was optimistic but realistic, providing further broad details about how the savings will be achieved.

While not without pain, a cut of $30 million — on top of the previous $20 million — “will not prevent us from fulfilling our core educational mission,” Colwell said, in his letter.

For some time, many people at SIU Carbondale and throughout the greater region so closely tied economically to the university’s health have wondered whether they should brace for significant layoffs.

Dunn and Colwell did not provide a specific answer to that question, though both indicated layoffs — to some unidentified degree — are likely to be part of the mix as they manage through the tenacious task of downsizing.

“There’s no way you can cut $30 million dollars out of a human capital enterprise and not have it affect personnel,” Dunn said, in an interview. “There’s no way to do it otherwise.”

Colwell echoed that sentiment in his letter. The “challenging and painful” reductions “will almost certainly include layoffs,” according to Colwell.

“I cannot yet provide an estimate on the number of potential layoffs, as this will depend on how units address their reductions,” Colwell said. “Overall, this will require us to rethink how we structure our work and our organization.”

“However, we will continue to fulfill our mission on behalf of students, offering a range of academic programs and other opportunities within and outside of the classroom. Every incoming student will be able to continue to complete his or her academic program.”

There are several committees on the Carbondale campus that have been studying, over the course of months, possible areas where savings can be achieved. A committee assigned to review non-instructional and support functions of the campus released its final report earlier this year.

Another committee reviewing core academics is expected to release its final report and recommendations in May. Then, the standing Chancellor’s Executive Planning & Budget Committee will review the two reports and deliver final recommendations to the chancellor, Dunn said, explaining where the process stands in identifying cuts.

The budget impasse playing out in Springfield has exacerbated the financial situation facing the Carbondale campus, as it has all public universities in the state, including the Edwardsville campus and SIU School of Medicine that, with Carbondale, make up the three legs of the SIU System.

Public universities in Illinois have operated without full fiscal year budgets for the past two years, and a third year is approaching without any signs of an agreement on a fiscal year 2018 budget. In the meantime, higher education has received funding through two stopgap partial year funding measures. In April, the SIU System received an allocation of $56 million, of which about $29 million went to the Carbondale campus. And on June 30, about $104 million was approved for the SIU System, of which about $54 million went to Carbondale.

The two stopgap appropriations together amounted to only about 41 percent — give or take — of what SIU Carbondale would have received in a typical two-year period.

But as Dunn noted Wednesday, SIU’s financial predicament is more extreme than that of the other campuses because Carbondale has managed a structural deficit for some time largely because of enrollment declines and a campus infrastructure that hasn’t been adjusted to account for fewer students showing up each fall. That means the Carbondale campus is going to have to cut spending regardless of whether another stopgap or full-year budget deal is approved by the General Assembly. Though, the cuts may not be as extreme if additional state funds are appropriated.

Dunn said it’s because of declining enrollment that the Carbondale campus must consider a serious review of departments and/or programs, and consider the elimination of some that are experiencing low enrollment and graduation rates.

According to Colwell, a cut of $30 million equates to 15.9 percent of the state budget for the campus. The reduction will be approached in two ways, he said. For one, permanent cuts totaling $19 million will be made to state-funded accounts, those supported by state appropriations and tuition, to be implemented beginning July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. Secondly, a plan must be implemented to pay back the roughly $83.3 million in borrowed reserve funds the university anticipates burning through in the final three months of the current fiscal year in the absence of additional state funding.

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Colwell outlined the following plan to make $19 million in permanent cuts. The first set of outlined cuts are campus wide.

• Vacant positions, $10 million: Any vacant positions funded by state resources will be swept permanently into a central account as of July 1 and going forward, and all future approved positions will be funded out of this account. This approach will give the campus more flexibility to fill positions where needs are greatest, regardless of a particular department’s ability to fund them, Colwell stated. It is anticipated many positions will go unfilled, resulting in the $10 million savings. It is estimated that 158 vacant positions may go unfilled, in addition to the 293 already reduced during the budget impasse.

• Equipment, supplies and contractual services, $1.5 million: Units across campus will be asked to lower operational costs by reducing spending from state accounts on equipment, supplies and contractual services. Vice chancellors and the chancellor’s office will be given a target they will need to meet.

• Campus work opportunities for students, $1 million: Vice chancellors and the chancellor’s office will be provided a financial target to be reached either through reduction in student hours or positions. It is anticipated that this will affect about 200 of our more than 3,700 student positions, Cowell said. The chancellor said it is unfortunate to have to cut student work hours, but said the savings cannot be achieved without doing so.

• Travel, $535,000: Dunn said that SIU Carbondale has already limited travel on state funds significantly, and will now eliminate it entirely. No travel on state funds will be approved. This policy begins immediately.

Additional cuts will be made to specific units of the campus. Colwell’s plan calls for a $1.5 million cut to plant and service operations; a $1.2 million cut to partially self-supporting units that include athletics and some research and service centers; a $1 million reduction in academic administrative costs and a $750,000 cut to non-academic administrative functions; a $500,000 cut to information technology services; a $465,000 cut to the School of Law; a $400,000 cut to the Library; and a $166,000 cut to development and alumni relations units.

As for how borrowed funds will be repaid — amounting to roughly $8.3 million to $11 million owed annually over 10 years — Colwell said that how this is done will vary from year to year. He said it is anticipated the amount that will be due annually is on the lower end of the scale, but that planning must be done for a worst-case scenario.

In his letter, Dunn addressed Carbondale’s potential need to borrow from the Edwardsville campus’ unrestricted funds. “The SIU budget is, and always has been, one budget comprised of three sub-budgets,” Dunn wrote. “Still, I fully understand there may be keen frustration — if not anger — at the fact that earlier cost-cutting efforts and strong enrollments at Edwardsville are being rewarded with that financial strength achieved now benefiting another campus.” But Dunn said this is not being done to help Carbondale avoid painful cuts.

It is necessary to show Carbondale operations “in the black” on paper, he said, and there will be no physical transfer of funds. “This is not a case where we are in danger of having all SIU campuses now becoming swamped … pulled down to the verge of fiscal insolubility or financial collapse in an attempt to rescue one,” Dunn wrote.

Both Dunn and Colwell noted that SIU Carbondale, Edwardsville and the School of Medicine have a solid future, despite the difficulties currently facing the Carbondale campus. These tough decisions will ensure we “all are here to stay,” Dunn wrote, “with the doors for each of our locations open wide and serving future generations …”

Wrote Colwell, specifically about the Carbondale campus: “We will look different, and we will be lean. And we will be here for years to come.”

In letter to SIU System, Dunn proposes Carbondale campus cut $30 million, borrow from Edwardsville

SIU considers major budget cuts

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SIU considers major budget cuts


Posted:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 9:59 PM EDT
Updated:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 9:59 PM EDT




CARBONDALE — SIU looks to make big budget cuts and borrow money to keep the Carbondale campus up and running.

SIU President Randy Dunn’s recommendations are in response to what he calls a financial crisis for the SIU system. They would affect all of SIU’s campuses, but the biggest cut would be made here in Carbondale: $30 million.

Dunn blames three factors for the impact here:

– the state budget impasse
– declining enrollment
– the fact that the Carbondale campus has already tapped out about $80 million in reserves the school must now pay back.

In addition to the Carbondale cuts, Dunn wants SIUE to cut $4 million, and the School of Medicine to cut $2.2 million.

He’s hoping making these adjustments now will keep the university afloat, without depending on state funding.

“So I really do see this as a shorter-term measure to buy some time until the state gets its act together and gets something passed,” said Dunn.

Dunn went on to say that if the university is in this mess six months from now, then its the fault of the state.

Decisions on specific cuts should be finalized by July 1.


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March 29, 2017 at 02:00PM

SIU considers major budget cuts

University students advocate for higher education in Springfield

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University students advocate for higher education in Springfield

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Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on May 15, 2016.

Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on May 15, 2016.

Over 200 University of Illinois students are expected to meet on March 29 with state legislators for the University of Illinois Student Day at the Capitol in Springfield to encourage funding for both the University of Illinois and higher education systems.

Students from all three University of Illinois campuses, Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, will attend this event coordinated by Illinois Connection, the legislative advocacy network of the University of Illinois Alumni Association.

“We hope to elevate the message about the importance of higher education, specifically the value of the University of Illinois to the state. By bringing hundreds of concerned students to the Capitol, we hope to get lawmakers’ attention about the detrimental effects of higher education cuts,” said Courtney Grussing, Director of Board Operations at the University of Illinois Alumni Association, in an email.  

Grussing expects half of the students meeting in Springfield to be from the Urbana-Champaign campus.

In addition to students, President Timothy Killeen, Executive Vice President Barbara Wilson, Executive Director of Governmental Relations Lindsay Anderson and University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch plan on attending the event.

At the meeting, the House Higher Education Committee will discuss the Investment, Performance and Accountability Commitment. This is a proposed five-year agreement by the University of Illinois’ System that focuses on receiving appropriate financial support from the state and establishing a long-term budget planning process.

Under the proposed Investment, Performance and Accountability Commitment, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign would be specifically required to admit a minimum number of 14,000 freshman or transfer Illinois residents as undergraduates.

“Our students’ futures are on the line. They are being impacted firsthand by the budget shortfall,” said Grussing. “The quality of education is diminished, fewer services and resources are available and students and their families are worried about how they will pay for college.”

Grussing believes that advocacy efforts are needed now more than ever due to the state’s lack of a budget and uncertain future.

Each student has a unique story to tell about how the University of Illinois has positively influenced his/her life,” Grussing said. “By bringing students from the University of Illinois System together, we are showing the collective impact that the University has on current and future students.”

[email protected]

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March 29, 2017 at 04:01AM

University students advocate for higher education in Springfield