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Message from the SPS President

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Deborah Haliczer
President, Supportive Professional Staff Council
dhaliczer@niu.edu

Star Date, November 2015

Deborah Haliczer
Deborah Haliczer 

The fall semester of 2015-2016 has gotten off to a challenging start. Enrollments were better than expected, but the great challenge to our University is the lack of a State budget. Our colleagues have not received an increment since 2012, and construction projects are halted. The University honored MAP grants for our students this fall in spite of no state funding; without state funding for those MAP grants, many of our students will face their own personal fiscal crisis in financing their educations. The University plans to repeat this action for the spring semester. And our administrators have provided assurance to the University community that we will remain open and pay salaries next semester. All of this results from a political impasse as our governor and legislative leaders allow our state to drift toward crisis, and allow state budgets to be dictated by court cases rather than honoring our state traditions of negotiation and compromise. If these were our employees, I might urge counseling and mediation to resolve their differences.

As campus leaders, we need to make our voices heard. Recently, the Student Association sponsored a rally on the occasion of Governor Rauner’s visit to NIU to speak at the DeKalb County Economic Development Commission dinner. The presidents of the Faculty Senate, Operating Staff Council and Supportive Professional Staff Council worked together with the student leadership to plan the event. SA and other student leaders joined with speakers representing the local community, social service agencies and political leaders to speak about the impact of the budget impasse, urging our governor and state legislators to move forward and pass the budget. State Representative Robert Pritchard, and DeKalb County board chair, Mark Pietrowski were among the speakers, urging resolution of the impasse and funding for student MAP grants, universities and social service agencies. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, university retirees, and representatives from local agencies and members of the community lent their voices, and we were joined by representatives from 13 other colleges and universities.

What can we do to address the budget situation and ask our state leaders to pass a budget? All of the employee councils are writing to the governor and state leaders to urge them to reach agreements that will pass a budget and fund state programs. Every day news reports tell us that schools are reaching crisis points due to the funding situation. Social service agencies are cutting back on services to the elderly and children and persons in need. Social services and funding for mental health have suffered from the lack of funding for critical programs. All of this threatens the academic and career success of our students, and adds to the anxiety that faculty and staff are experiencing. We are seeing the impact on the local and state economy, and are watching the State’s credit ratings decline.

I am asking all of you to write the Governor, the legislative leaders, and your State Senator and State Representative and urge them to get serious about resolving this budget impasse. Students at NIU and across the other State universities deserve an education without threats caused by political conflict. This is not a statement about any political party, but an effort to urge our state leaders to do the job for which they were elected and pass a budget and get Illinois back on track. Here is link to where you can find your State Senator and State Representative’s contact information, as well as contact information for the Senate President, House Speaker, and Governor. 

www.ilga.gov

I would also like to thank all of you for your hard work, especially in these challenging times. NIU’s Supportive Professional Staff are intensely involved with serving our students and our university mission. I know how many of you are working hard on the Program Prioritization process, and applaud your dedication and commitment. We, along with our faculty and operating staff colleagues make NIU the kind of place that makes a difference in the lives of our students. Please take a moment to visit the SPS Council website. Our Council colleagues post a good deal of information on how the Council operates, who your representatives are, and what awards and recognitions we give. You might consider reading the Council’s Annual Report to get a sense of what your colleagues are doing to promote morale and engagement and well-being for all SPS.

On January 1, I will hand over command of our SPS Council “enterprise” to a new president. I will be joining a group of NIU faculty and staff who are moving into a new frontier: retirement. On that same day, I will have worked at NIU for 25 years. It amazes me how quickly it has gone. I have had the honor of leading the SPS Council for 2 ½ years, and have served as a member of the Council for almost 20 years. It has been a privilege to work with this dedicated group, who come together to assure that we work in a positive environment and advance the wellbeing of all Supportive Professional Staff, while supporting our Operating Staff and Faculty colleagues.

I encourage all of you to get to know your Council representatives and let them know your thoughts about matters that affect us. Our agendas and minutes are posted on the SPS Council website. Take advantage of the invitations sent by the SPSC and come together for networking and learning. Consider running for a seat as a representative on SPS Council. Remember, we hold open meetings, and you can try out the Council by serving on one of our committees. We will be conducting our regular workplace survey in 2016 and I hope that you share your thoughts with us. I know we are going through a challenging period, but we are stronger because we support one another and work together for positive solutions. NIU will continue to prosper in its educational mission because of all of you.

And now, in my final official communication to all of you, let me quote one of my favorite popular culture heroes, and express my wish that you will Live Long and Prosper!

Deborah Haliczer, President
SPS Council

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SPS Holiday Social

Melissa Burlingame Janet Love-Moore 

Melissa Burlingamemburlingame@niu.edu
Janet Love-Moorejlovemoore@niu.edu
Co-Chairs, SPS Council Events Committee

Holiday Social Event
SPS Holiday Social
Monday, December 14th
3-4:30 p.m.
NIU Anthropology Museum

The staff of the NIU Anthropology Museum are inviting SPS to celebrate winter and the holiday season in Cole Hall. There will be activities for those interested in creating a communal rag rug, coloring Hmong art pages, or possibly creating storage mounts for the museum itself. As for the food, watch for details on the potluck and the taste competition that we will be holding. This will be a great way to wrap up the semester!

We welcome you to bring any old (clean) t-shirts to cut up for the rag rug activity. 

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Supportive Professional Staff Dependent Scholarship Fund

Anne Hardy


Anne Hardy 
SPS Scholarship Committee 
ahardy@niu.edu

In 2012, the SPS Council decided to create the SPS Dependent Scholarship Fund. Many of us are facing challenging economic times and uncertain financial futures, but yet it is still important for us to support and celebrate each other in any way we can. This scholarship provides financial assistance while recognizing the talents, achievements, and student career success of our own dependents. All three of the past receipients have also used this scholarship as a chance to recognize the contributions that their parent has made to NIU during their time on campus. And all of NIU's students realize that their success is in part due to the support they receive from all faculty and staff.

I am pleased to report that, to date, we have received nearly $7,000 in generous donations for the SPS Dependent Scholarship Fund. However, we still need your help! As the fall semester comes to a close, we ask that you call upon your Huskie pride and make a tax deductible gift to help reach our goal of endowing the SPS Dependent Scholarship Fund. Gifts can be made online or through payroll deduction. All of the forms and links can be found on the SPS Council website Scholarships page

Applications for the SPS Dependent Scholarship Fund are also now available on the Council website. Encourage your dependents to apply by February 1 to be considered for this honor and the opportunity to receive $1,000 towards their NIU education next year.

Watch your mail for more information coming soon from the NIU Foundation and our scholarship recipients.

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SPS Awards Nominations are Underway

Missy Gillis and Emily Hochstatter
Awards Commitee Co-Chairs
gillis@niu.edu, emurray2@niu.edu

It is that time of year again when your SPS Council seeks nominations for the Presidential Supportive Professional Staff Award for Excellence. This award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the university, and all SPS are eligible as long as they are at least 50% time and do not hold rank or tenure. An individual can only receive this award once and must be currently employed as SPS at NIU at the time of the nomination and during the award ceremony in the spring. Recipients will be awarded a plaque and $1,500 as a thank you for their hard work and dedication to NIU.

Nominations for this award will be accepted until 4:30p.m. on Friday, December 4, 2015. For full details on the nomination process, please see the SPS Council Awards page.

In January, 2016, the SPS Council will also be seeking nominations for its remaining five awards. The additional awards recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the university in special fields of expertise, including advocacy, cultural competency, supervision, institutional advancement, and partnership and collaboration. Recipients will be awarded a plaque for this recognition at the award ceremony in the spring.

The annual award ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, April 14, 2016, at 2:00 p.m. This event is a great opportunity to meet and greet our SPS colleagues and come together to celebrate the successes of others at our institution. The ceremony will also include the presentation of the SPSC Service Award and all Certificates of Recognition for individuals who have achieved accomplishments above and beyond their job duties within the past year.

The awards season is a wonderful time at NIU, and we hope colleagues will nominate many of their peers for these awards. Please consider nominating individuals for the Presidential Award for Excellence, and watch for the opportunity to nominate colleagues for the remaining awards and Certificates of Recognition just after the new year.

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Thinking about Retiring???

Deborah Haliczer


Deborah Haliczer
President, Supportive Professional Staff Council
dhaliczer@niu.edu

The first step an employee should take toward retirement is to meet with a State Universities Retirement System (SURS) counselor. After you make your decisions on when to retire, there are more tasks an employee must undertake to make an effective transition to another career phase--retirement.

First, file the appropriate retirement application with SURS, being sure to get it notarized, and keep a copy. The applications vary by which plan you are enrolled in: traditional, portable, or self-managed. The SURS will send confirmation by email and regular mail to let you know they received it. In that application, you will make choices about health insurance. After retirement, any questions about insurance should be directed towards SURS, and information on the benefit choice period is sent by mail to your home. Don’t forget to apply for Medicare if you are within three months of reaching age 65. Even if you are NOT retiring, you need to apply for Medicare in those three months prior to turning 65. Medicare will remain secondary until you retire. After retirement, Medicare becomes the primary insurance and the retiree will select among various HMO and PPO plans as the secondary insurance. These insurance issues are explained on the SURS website.

Second, the retiring employee needs to resign from their employment at NIU. Supportive Professional Staff (and faculty) need to submit a letter of resignation to their departments, naming the final day of employment and the date when retirement will begin. For example, an employee who wants to retire January 1 will list December 31 as the final day at work. Civil Service employees must submit a resignation form at Human Resource Services.

If you have unused vacation days, or unused compensable sick days (i.e., 50 % of those unused sick days), these will be paid out after retirement by Payroll. Don’t forget to submit a final Salaried Benefits Usage statement to HRS to accurately reflect sick and vacation days. If you are fortunate to have saved these days, you can consider deferring some or all of this time into a 403(b) or 457 plan to help reduce taxes on that payout amount. Talk with HRS about your options.

Third, meet with your department and go through the items on the Exit checklist, available on the HRS website. Be sure to turn in all equipment and your keys. Go to the One Card office and obtain a retiree ID card, which will make you eligible for free parking with a grey retiree parking permit. Retirees can also use the NIU Recreation Center at no cost. Your retiree ID card is also your identification for using the NIU libraries. NIU retirees can also take classes at Northern using their retiree tuition waiver benefit. Inquire at Human Resource Services.

Fourth, consider joining LLI, the Lifelong Learning Institute, and take interesting classes for fun. And stay connected with the university by joining the NIU Annuitants Association. Membership in the NIUAA provides the retiree with an email account and assures that you will receive timely notice of changes in pensions or retiree health insurance, plus it gives you notice of gatherings and fun trips. It’s a wise decision and costs a minimal amount. As with current employees, the application for membership in the NIU Annuitants Association is available on the NIU home page at http://www.niu.edu/annuitants/.

To learn more about your pension and retirement benefits, consult the SURS website at http://www.surs.org. Counseling appointments with SURS are available by phone, in person in Champaign, or at the NIU Naperville campus. The SURS also sends counselors twice a year to NIU’s DeKalb campus. Log onto the SURS website, and practice using the online estimator. You can use the estimator to see how your pension might be affected by the upcoming January 4, 2016, change in the actuarial calculation. This would affect some employees, but not all. The SURS estimator will tell you if this affects you.