CARTERVILLE — When the Illinois House of Representatives voted July 7 to override a gubernatorial veto of a package of budget bills, they ended a 736-day standoff which imperiled higher education institutions in the state.
For Brad McCormick, vice president for business services and college facilities at John A. Logan College, and everyone at the college, including administration, employees, faculty and students, that moment was a long time coming.
“It was a bit surreal. It happened so unceremoniously and so quickly,” said McCormick, who tuned into a web broadcast of the event from the computer in his office.
“In some ways, it was like watching the end of a reality TV show, except that a TV show doesn’t often affect anyone. But in the case of this override, the outcome affected hundreds of people I know,” McCormick said.
McCormick spoke to the JALC Board of Trustees July 25 and outlined the effect the override had on the college.
“The result of that vote was nothing but dramatic, as the budget not only appropriated money for JALC for FY18, it also allocated money for supplemental funding for FY17. And this made all the difference in the world to the college,” McCormick said.
When the budget for FY18 was first proposed in May, the outlook for the college was grim. Illinois was approaching its third year without a budget and the college was faced with exhausting every reserve dollar they had with the exception of $14,250.
Fast forward to now, and the college will see its beginning balance increase from approximately $4.2 million to about $8.8 million.
Provided that the college receives all its allocated funding, when classes start on Aug. 16, it will open its doors with a small buffer with which to begin planning for the FY19 budget.
“We have an administrative procedure that says our goal is three to six months operating expenses. If all the funding for FY18 flows the way we anticipate it, and the spending goes the way we budgeted it, we will end the FY18 just across that threshold with three months’ worth of operating expenses,” McCormick said.
McCormick also offered a historical perspective on the funding cuts JALC endured. Right now, he said, most comparisons are being made to the FY15 budget.
“That’s how the legislature made its calculations and that’s how inflation is being computed. But I thought it would be instructive to look at the highest year of funding JALC, which was FY2010, as a baseline.” McCormick said.
McCormick said funding for the college in FY10 was at $14.1 million. In the current budget scenario, the 100 percent measure is the FY15 level, which for the college was $11.3 million.
So according to McCormick, before the college got to the measure used to figure their current level of funding, they had already experienced a 20 percent drop in support.
“To further expand on this, FY17 is funded at $9.8 million, which is 87 percent of FY15’s funding, but 70 percent of our highest year of funding. FY18 is funded at $8.6 million, which is 76 percent of FY15’s funding but 61 percent of our highest year of funding,” McCormick said.
McCormick said when compared to FY10, the college’s FY18 budget is shocking.
“We are receiving 61 percent of what we were receiving eight fiscal years ago. And my perspective is that this level of funding is the new norm.”
JALC President Ron House said the funding allocation is good news, but that the college is not yet out of the woods.
“We are very happy to receive the money that’s been allocated to us. It is vastly more than we have been getting for the two years which has kind of stopped the bleeding. But keep in mind over the last two fiscal years we lost about $15 million we didn’t get, and so this budget will do very little, if anything, to offset that loss,” House said.
McCormick and house both stressed that though the colleges financial situation is vastly better than several months ago, the college is still in a very strong cost saving mode.
We continue to look at where we can cut, and areas to generate more revenue, and our problems are not over,” House said.
House said the biggest concern for the college is improving enrollment numbers and reducing expenditures.
“The holy grail of community colleges are credit hours. If we can increase our enrollment and at the same time reduce our expenditures, we will be in a responsible position for FY19,” House said.