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WIU Striving to Correct Structural Budget Deficit

Courtesy WIU

During his January 13 speech to the university community, Western Illinois University Interim President Martin Abraham announced the school could finish the fiscal year in the black.  But just a few weeks earlier, Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance Letisha Trepac told the Board of Trustees the school has a structural budget deficit of $8 million.

Tri States Public Radio wondered about the disparity and asked Trepac about it. You can listen to the radio interview by clicking on the audio link.

Trepac said Western projected an $8 million deficit based on anticipated revenues. But she said the university will spend under budget and she now projects spending will fall within revenues.

“That’s where the disparity lies – between budgeted expense and actual expense,” she said.

“Because of some one-time holdbacks during any given year, then you can spend under budget. So (for example) not filling budgeted positions or spending on critical spending only within operations.”

But Trepac said WIU must still find permanent budget reductions to bring spending in line with revenues.

“We do need to correct our structural budget deficit. We can do that over a number of years as long as we continue to control spending,” Trepac said. “We don’t expect revenue to increase greatly in just a few years.”

She has recommended leaving open positions vacant, pointing out personnel constitutes about 75% of the university’s appropriated budget. She is also looking for operational savings but said those costs have already been reduced and are now quite low.

Trepac said Western’s income fund reserve has been exhausted due to the events of the past half-decade.

“We did have deficit spending in fiscal years ’18 and ’19, which took a little bit from it. But primarily it was the budget impasse,” she said.

Western and the rest of public higher education received little funding from the state during the budget impasse, which lasted from July 2015 to July 2017.

She said the administration hopes the state will increase financial support for WIU and the rest of public higher education in Illinois. She said Western used to receive 60% of its funding from the state; now it’s 50%.

Trepac said Western’s administration also remains hopeful that enrollment will turn around. She said administrators are rolling out a number of initiatives to attract and retain students.