BOT authorizes University to use Auxiliary Facilities Systems funds


Erika Ward

Western President Jack Thomas addresses budget concerns at the special Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday morning.

Nicholas Ebelhack, News Editor

The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees (BOT) met Wednesday morning for a special meeting and unanimously approved a bill y a 6-0 vote that gives the university authorization to use Auxiliary Facilities Systems funds to support operational costs.

Auxiliary Facilities Systems funds are traditionally used for purposes that revolve around campus life and other non-academic purposes. Budget Director Matt Bierman explained that the funds aren’t funded by the state, but rather by selling “tax-exempt bonds to build and help maintain those facilities.”

“These are the funds that support that support our auxiliary campus facilities such as University Housing and Dining Services, Campus Recreation and the University Union,” Bierman said.

According to Bierman, the university currently has between $20 million and $30 million in auxiliary funds they would be able to use towards operational costs.

“This will buy us some time for the state to continue to make decisions that they need to make and to pass a budget.”

Western President Jack Thomas opened up the meeting by expressing that the 10-month state budget impasse has caused his leadership team to dig deeper for new solutions to the lack of appropriated funding.

“We must now turn to the temporary use of Auxiliary Facilities System funds to continue our operations,” Thomas said. “While the use of these funds serves as a last resort, it is necessary to ensure that we use them to continue the necessary operations.”

This action follows other measures enacted over the course of FY 16, including furloughs, layoffs and retirement incentives. The most recent solution, furloughs, have been accepted by only one of the campus unions, the Fraternal Order of Police, while six others are still in negotiations, according to Thomas.

While the university hasn’t officially dipped into Auxiliary Facility Systems funds just yet, Bierman said that if a budget is not passed within the next 30 days, it would become necessary to explore the option.

However, he and other administrators are still hopeful due to recent developments in Springfield.

“We have seen some movement in Springfield,” Bierman said. “We have seems some bills be introduced and we think that the bills are beginning to come through and hopefully very soon we will have an appropriation of some kind,” Bierman said.

As mentioned at the State of the Student Address by Student Government Association (SGA) President Wil Gradle and Student Member to the BOT Michael Quigley, in order for the university to access these funds, there is a penalty. Bierman explained that the funds are restricted, so the administration would have to disclose to bondholders that the funds would be used for other purposes within 10 days.

“We have no intention of defaulting on a bond payment, if we would use these funds it would be a technical default because we would use these funds until we had the money to pay them back,” Bierman said.

Those bonds are sold with the expectation that they would be used to pay the costs of auxiliary facilities or to pay off the debt the university has incurred on them.

Thomas said in his remarks that he hopes Springfield takes notice of what the BOT voted on when he meets with legislators.

“These are things that we have to do,” Thomas said. “Hopefully this will have an impact down in Springfield where legislators will see the impact this is having on all of our universities and higher education in general.”

Thomas described Western as being the “economic engine” of west-central Illinois, and that the economic impact of Western on the region is worth doing whatever it takes.

“We will do all that’s necessary to keep our doors open and keep moving our university forward,” Thomas said. “We continue to do wonderful things here at our institution.”

When asked about the attitude of the campus towards the budget impasse, Bierman expressed that he feels the same as the campus community about the impasse, but the administration does not see an end to the university.

“I share their mood, it is frustrating, and the decisions that we have had to make are very difficult and we have just been put in a terrible position, but I would just tell the students to have a little bit of hope,” Bierman said. “As Dr. Thomas has said many times we have been here 117 years and we are going to be here 117 more.”