The Illinois General Assembly wrapped up their work in Springfield a few days ago, finalizing both a multi-billion dollar state budget and a multi-billion dollar capital bill. Western Illinois University is in line for tens of millions of dollars in both deals.
WIU will receive $49.6-million from the state for operating expenses in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019. That’s a roughly 5% increase compared to the current fiscal year.
WIU Budget Director Letisha Trepac said her office anticipated flat funding in next year’s budget, so the increase is welcome. But she said the roughly $2.4-million in additional money will be quickly absorbed into the daily costs of the university as opposed to restoring program cuts or reversing layoffs.
Trepac said Western will have to continue to look for opportunities to save money.
“But not in the way of layoffs,” said Trepac. “It will be cost control measures such as attrition savings through vacated positions that could potentially be taken off the books. Of course, each of those will be analyzed. As well as operating expense control.”
In September, the WIU Board of Trustees approved an operational budget that was based on the university receiving nearly $64.5-million. The board said it would spend the new money to restore previous budget reductions and deferred maintenance.
Trepac said the university never planned on receiving that much money, given the financial challenges facing the state of Illinois. She said the larger request was made to show the ongoing financial needs of the university, especially after the two-year budget impasse.
The state budget also includes funding for MAP & AIM High programs at WIU as well as continued appropriations for the Center for Performing Arts on the Macomb campus and the Quad Cities Riverfront Campus.
WIU is in line for more than $120-million in the capital bill, which will be funded by a wide range of tax and fee increases as well as the expansion of gambling.
The largest line-item for Western is more than $94-million to build a new science building on the Macomb campus.
Interim VP William Polley said the three buildings that currently house science labs and classrooms are showing their age. So a new science building has been a priority for years.
“There have been studies of what exactly a new science building would look like, where it would go and what would be included and the like, so those types of conceptual drawings have already been done.”
Polley said those efforts will pick up when the state releases the money, but the university does not know when that will happen. He said WIU plans to ask the Governor’s Office to release the science building funding and an additional $29-million for deferred maintenance early due to the university’s financial need.
Polley said the university went from spending about $16-million annually on building upkeep before the two year budget impasse to about $4-million annually.
“So what will 29-million dollars do?,” said Polley. “It will catch up for a couple of years that we have really seen that decline. So it will be things like work on roofs and masonry on the buildings, heating and air condition and water pipes.”
Polley said the $29-million is on top of about $10-million the university received this year for emergency repairs and building work.