August 02, 2010

Campus leaders make difficult budget decisions

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale continues to tighten its belt in the ongoing efforts to manage a difficult budget situation.

Earlier this summer, Chancellor Rita Cheng asked all campus units to submit plans for an average 4 percent reduction in their budgets. The University’s financial challenges are the result of the end of the federal stimulus program, state-imposed budget reserves, enrollment concerns, slow state reimbursements and contractual obligations to employees.

“The steps we are taking, which will result in a savings of $7 million, are part of a multi-faceted strategy to cover a budget shortfall of $11.5 million,” Cheng said. “These strategies are designed to insure academic quality and effective operations, while minimizing the impact on our employees.”

The budget reduction plans, developed with input from the Chancellor’s Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, include savings generated by not filling positions, cuts in operational budgets, and additional personnel reductions. The plans called for the elimination of 16 staff positions and two non-tenure track faculty positions. However, administrators and supervisors worked together to place as many of the affected staff as possible. In the coming days and weeks, 14 staff members will be reassigned.

“The hiring freeze that has been in place for the past year -- and which will continue -- allows us to transfer these employees to key positions in critical areas, such as Enrollment Management,” Cheng said.

Two Civil Service staff members and two non-tenure track faculty members are being laid off.

“I truly regret that we could not find positions for all members of our workforce,” Cheng said. “At the same time, by not filling positions over the past year, we avoided a much higher number of layoffs.”

Additional efforts that are generating significant savings include postponing the addition or replacement of equipment, sharply reducing commodity purchases and severely limiting travel. Examples of other steps being taken by University departments include reducing the number of phone lines, reducing or eliminating memberships in professional organizations, and further postponing many long-overdue repair and maintenance projects.

Cheng praised faculty and staff for making “a significant difference” in addressing the University’s financial challenges.

Officials continue to monitor enrollment numbers for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 23. Cheng said that based on those numbers, additional steps, such as furloughs, may still be necessary.

“The campus community has been very responsive -- and responsible -- in finding ways to be more efficient,” she said. “We know we have to tighten our belts even more, and we will continue to look for ways to deliver services in a different, and more cost-effective, manner.”