The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees faced the grim budget news from the state and took action to end a contract with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice affecting seven full-time employees.
Trustees heard that, according to a memo from Illinois Community College Board CEO Geoff Obrzut to all Illinois community colleges, the budget for higher education as proposed by the governor is "dire."
The community college system faces a total 6.09 percent reduction of funding. Universities were hit with a 4.95 percent reduction.
Board members heard that this was the first year ever that community colleges began budget talks in the negative.
"Community colleges had a flat budget for about 10 years and then took a significant hit of over six percent last year," said Dr. Jonah Rice, SIC president. "Now we're faced with a projected reduction for next year, and it will probably only get worse as discussions continue. And then we're told we'll face cuts the next two years. Add to that a possible pension shift and unfunded mandates from the state and the federal government, and the storm swirling above all community colleges is a bad mix."
As part of what is expected to be a series of fiscal management strategies in the coming eight months, the board voted not to renew the college's contract with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice at the Illinois Youth Center in Harrisburg.
"Those programs are important, and we believe in them," said vice president for academic and student affairs, Dr. Dana Keating. "But it's a matter of cash flow for the entire institution."
Board chair, Dr. Pat York, said that the board is saddened by the decision and praised the IYC contractual employees.
"It's not an easy decision to not renew the contract, and we expect more difficult decisions to come," said York.
Rice said that the college just went through significant sustainability planning three years ago and was on solid footing. The college now begins round two of sustainability planning because it not only has to deal with continuing revenue loss, but the ever growing problem of grossly delayed payments.
SIC has only received about 9 percent of expected revenue from the state for reimbursement for course credits earned in its district this academic year alone. The state is now behind on payments to the college by more than $3 million and growing.
Board member Jim Ellis said, "They keep moving the goal post on us."
All community colleges in the state have been told that there will be an unprecedented 12-18 percent payment lag between fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2014.
SIC relies on the state for 45 percent of its general operating revenue. The college has a low equalized assessed valuation due to low property values. Additionally, a huge portion of the Shawnee National Forest and large tracts of government-owned property are in the college's district. That all combines to reduce the college's property tax base to the lowest in the state.
Page 2 of 2 - SIC does not receive Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) federal funds paid to other local units of government based on the presence of large tracts of federal land.
Other News and Events
The board was informed that the Department of Education contacted SIC regarding the recent college audit and the newly mandated inclusion of the Foundation into the audit. The Foundation is now listed as a component unit of the college.
The audit was found to be in a qualified status because of that inclusion and the lack of multiple completed audits by the Foundation. As a result, the Department of Education will issue a deficiency letter to the college requesting action to remedy the deficiency.
"The college's own internal audit was in great shape," said Rice. "But because of the mandated inclusion of the Foundation into our audit, we received this deficiency."
College officials are investigating the ramifications of this federal action to assess possible outcomes should the same situation be forced onto the college a second year.
New student trustee for the 2013-14 academic year, Nicole York of Omaha, was sworn in during the board meeting and will assume her trustee duties in July.
The Section 25 FFA Ag Mechanics Competition will be hosted by SIC on April 18 for area high school students.
Competitors will be tested in the areas of carpentry, surveying, electricity, and ag power, and will also learn more about careers in agriculture.
Gina Sirach was approved by the board as the dean of academic services. Sirach has been acting as interim dean since July 2012.
Ted Veatch was approved by the board as a new adjunct biofuels instructor.
Dan Holt, long-time business instructor for SIC, will retire as of June 1. Additionally, Kristin Hunt, payroll clerk, has announced her resignation.
The next board meeting will be 6 p.m. April 16 in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room at SIC.