December 3, 2008
Throughout the eight years of my presidency, I have periodically used this vehicle to share information on issues that affect our entire university. Today I want to bring you up to date on the status of NIU’s FY09 budget and our near-term financial outlook in these difficult economic times.
Over the past several months, I have been working with our vice presidents to prepare for the approaching budgetary storm. Faced with declining revenues on nearly every front, the State of Illinois is entering the second half of this budget year with an estimated $2 billion deficit. Governor Blagojevich recently asked the state legislature for emergency authority to require up to 8% reserves from all appropriated funds (and while such authority is unlikely to be granted, it does illustrate the extent of the state’ s budget crisis).
Late last week, we received our first preliminary indication of how the state’s financial crisis will play out at public universities: We have been asked to ‘hold back’ or reserve 2.5% of our general revenue budget for the current fiscal year. However, given the size of Illinois’ budget deficit in the context of an increasingly unfavorable economic outlook, we need to be prudent and prepare for the possibility of further reductions this year and in FY2010.
Meeting the FY09 reserve request from the Governor’s Office of Management & Budget requires stringent attention to spending at all levels. We have been working diligently since September on financial contingency plans aimed at maintaining educational quality and programs and protecting student, faculty and staff employment.
Freezing hiring except for critical areas, reducing and managing all expenditures including travel, equipment, and general operations are just some of the ways we have prepared for this mid-year budget reduction. Yet our work is far from over: state revenue projections show little improvement over the next 12 months, and recovery is not expected to begin before mid-2010.
As we anticipate the Governor’s budget message in February, signs are pointing to a very austere FY2010 budget. Now, more than ever, we need to reaffirm our priorities as a university community: commitment to our students, engagement with our region, pursuit of new knowledge and tireless support for each other. The work of the university will go on, as it has for more than a century.
The measures we are taking will ensure NIU’s vibrant and prosperous future for years to come.
As always, I thank you for your loyalty, support and counsel.
John G. Peters