Bierman talks budget at SGA

Kayla Trail

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 Budget Director Matthew Bierman and Interim Provost Kathy Neumann addressed rumors circulating on campus in regards to the school being closed next semester during Tuesday’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting. 

 “Dr. Thomas wanted to make sure we got some information to you that we are moving forward,” Neumann said.

 Neumann informed the board that the budget crisis could lead to faculty pay cuts, programs being cut and cutbacks to the campus all around.

 “We are getting reduced funding from the state,” Neumann said. “That continues into next year as we continue to see a decrease in the amount of support we get from the state of Illinois. There are some areas that need reinvestment, some programs that are really growing and that we need to explore. So we have some opportunities now that are going to affect potentially how salaries are done for faculty and staff. We may have to talk about maybe doing some furlough days, maybe a little decrease in salary on a temporary basis.”

 Bierman followed with how much Illinois is spending and what students and faculty can expect in the next coming months.

 “Let’s say Jan. 1, they passed the budget and that is all great, we would be very excited about that,” Bierman said. “Right now they (Illinois) are about six months behind in their payments to us, so if they pass the budget in January at the rate that they have been going, the earliest they would begin to pay us is in July so we would have to figure some things out in cash flow. Not only do we need a budget, we need cash to come as soon as they pass this. That’s what we need as a campus.”

 For this year, the state is roughly spending about $36 billion and Bierman said that there is about $2 billion that is “hanging in limbo,” and that is where the higher education is currently being put.

 “Our local legislatures have informed us that they have severe concern on cash flow as we enter the spring semester at a state level,” Bierman said. “In the beginning of July there was a $6 billion in rears to vendors and agencies (and) they expect to be $8 billion in arrears by Dec. 31 and by June 30, they expect to be in the neighborhood of $12 billion. The state is going to struggle with cash regardless of what happens in the budget situation so even if they passed our budget, they are still going to struggle.”

Bierman and Neumann both reassured the room that the campus will be opened next semester, regardless of the chatter and whispers that argue that.

“We will exhaust all of our financial resources to assure that we are able to offer spring classes all the way through to graduation,” Bierman said. “We have enough financial resources to be able to do that, we don’t want the campus to go into a panic that spring classes won’t be offered, they will. It’s as simple as that. You register, we are going to have spring classes.”

Lastly, SGA president Wil Gradle thanked those who attended Student Advocacy day before the meeting ended, and urged students to be active in contacting their legislatures.

“We had a fantastic showing,” Gradle said. “Western was the biggest presence felt in Springfield and I want to encourage you all to keep writing to your legislatures, that is the thing that is going to make a difference in Springfield. We have to keep on them, keep emailing, keep talking, if you want to go old school, you can even write a letter — it is something that you cannot give up on. I encourage you to get with your organizations and call a specific legislator, a group legislator, make a difference.”