With the state of Illinois passing its first budget since 2015, there are a lot of questions to be answered, specifically questions regarding funding for higher education.
The state went 736 days without a budget and SIUE kept open with 29 percent of the state appropriation for the ‘15-‘16 fiscal year and 53 percent of the state appropriation for ‘16-‘17 fiscal year, according to Chancellor Randy Pembrook.
“We crossed over from June 30 to July 1 and we thought that was the end of the ‘16-‘17 situation, and so when they passed the legislation, they not only acted on ‘17-‘18 funding, but they restored the entire budget for ‘16- ‘17,” Pembrook said.
Katie Stuart, state representative for the 112th district, which emcompasses SIUE, voted against the override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 9, but clarified she voted to override Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 6, which includes the funding for higher education.
“I want to note the importance of higher education statewide and in the area. SIUE is one of the largest employers and having it in a crisis situation wasn’t helping anything,” Stuart said.
Senior accounting major Blake Bamper, of Maryville, also expressed concern about the tax icrease negatively affecting a lot of people, but said the benefits make up for the negatives.
“It’s going to be a tough one to swallow for some people. I think overall, the benefits are gonna outweigh the negatives of the tax hike. The benefits of just having budget outweigh that,” Bamper said.
Because the bill passed, SIUE will now be able to operate within the original outlined budget, provide Monetary Award Program funding and continue to work on building projects, Pembrook said.
“The backfill for ‘16-‘17 is about 27 to 28 million, the MAP funding for ‘16-‘17 will be between 6 to 7 million dollars. The 90 percent [allocation for] ‘17- ‘18 will be about 53 million dollars and we expect MAP funding for about 7 million dollars,” Pembrook said.
One of the immediate changes students, faculty and staff will see is the completion of construction on the Science East building, which will be done in the coming Fall.
“The reappropriation for Science East is a 26 million dollar project. They had done about 20 million, so the last, between 6 and 7 million dollars will be coming forward on that,” Pembrook said.
According to Pembrook, Alumni and Founders halls will see renovations after the Science East building is done, and they hope to have two auditoriums up and running in about a month or so.
The expansion of Dunham Hall to include two new performance facilities, is also on the list of projects to be completed. Because of the state funding and private gifts, they can now move on to the next stage of planning for that renovation.
Senior secondary education and biology major Heather Kotlarczyk, of Hazlewood, Mo., said she can’t think of much that needs to be changed at SIUE, regarding the funding from the budget pass.
“I feel like they should talk to professors about what they want see and that would be a good idea. I like so much about this school I don’t know what I would change or want to see changed,” Kotlarczyk said.
As far as new projects go, Pembrook said there are 8 or 10 things that the he and the budget committee discussed in their meeting Thursday, July 6.
Pembrook said they talked about salaries, marketing and branding, retention initiatives, new programs that could help offer cutting edge things and an innovation fund. They also talked about the teaching excellence center in the library, new staffing and the IT department.
“This isn’t to say that we are going to be able to afford and do all of these, I want to be clear on that, but [these are] things we discussed that maybe can be part of a discussion now,” Pembrook said.
Senior computer science major John Scheibal, of Edwardsville, said he would like to see the school use its funding to bring more professional degrees to the campus.
“I think it needs to have more masters and doctorate like programs. Like if you could go to SIUE and get a degree in law it would draw in so many people. They should focus on making sure people have the opportunity to do what they want and not have to go somewhere else afterwards,” Scheibal said.
SIUE’s Edwardsville campus is not the only place to see continued improvement.
Pembrook said we should see continued improvement on the East. St. Louis and Alton campuses as well, and the progress will move faster because of the funding.
Even though there is now a budget, Pembrook said they don’t plan on restoring everything they cut in face of the budget crisis.
“As the institution begins to evolve, we are trying to make sure that all of things we do have a real purpose and we are efficient in doing them,” Pembrook said.
According to Pembrook, the budget committee has agreed to meet again in about a month and should know more about of distribution of funding and the time in which it will happen.