‘Short-term solution’ for budget uncertainties

dollar signUIC is taking prudent fiscal measures to endure a state budget impasse that has continued for more than a year.

The university does not have a full-year budget appropriation for fiscal 2017, which began July 1, and only partial funding for fiscal 2016.

In April, legislators approved a “stop-gap” appropriation of $180 million to the University of Illinois system, compared to the $647 million appropriated for fiscal 2015.

At the end of the legislative session June 30, state legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner agreed on an initial spending plan that would provide $250 million to the university for fiscal 2017 — about 55 percent of the university’s state appropriation for fiscal 2015. The plan will fund higher education, public K-12 schools and other essential state services through December.

UIC administrators prepared for a budget cut of 20 percent for fiscal 2016 but have only received 27 percent of the expected appropriation, said Janet Parker, associate chancellor for budget and resource planning. A budget shortfall of about $120 million remains for fiscal 2016.

“It puts us in a really difficult situation in terms of being able to do forward planning,” Parker said. “We have to address the shortfall, as difficult as it might be.”

Administrators hope state legislators will fully fund the fiscal 2016 and 2017 appropriations when they reconvene in the new year, UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said in an email to university employees Sept. 21.

“Until the situation is resolved, however, we must carefully manage our current funds and minimize spending given the uncertainty faced,” he said.

To address the shortfall, administrators will put in escrow 39 percent of balances that remained in units’ and departments’ state, institutional and student fee accounts at the end of fiscal 2016. The money is expected to be returned to the departments and units after the budgets are approved.

“It’s a short-term solution,” Parker said. “What we’re doing is avoiding having departments spend money that the university doesn’t have. We just have to really see how we can pull together to ride out this unprecedented situation.”

The measure is “ an unavoidable consequence of the prolonged impasse in state government,” Amiridis said.

“UIC remains strong due to our record student enrollments, excellent research and clinical funding, and prudent fiscal management. Nevertheless, no public university can or should be expected to operate under a private funding model for such a prolonged period of time.

“We need the state to fulfill its higher education obligations for the last two fiscal years and we will continue to advocate tirelessly in this direction.”

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