The Faculty Association has been pushing for better wages, and with SIUE’s $27 million cash reserve, used for unexpected expenses and to pay the campus’ bills and employees, the faculty believes it is more than feasible.
A cash reserve is the money a business, school or individual keeps on hand to meet short-term and emergency funding needs.
According to SIUE’s Budget Director Bill Winter, the June 30, Fiscal Year 2018 cash reserve was at $27 million.
“Cash is a constantly changing number,” Winter said. “$27 million on June 30 of 2018, that’s how much it was that day, but there are 364 other days of the year. The money is higher in August, but it goes down as we are paying salaries, so it’s a moving target.”
Winter said SIUE’s cash reserve was lower 10-15 years ago omit but has grown significantly since the state appropriations, given to SIUE, were delayed in the 2009 Fiscal Year.
A state appropriation is the money given to public universities for higher education. The money is used as a part of SIUE’s budget through the state of Illinois.
“So, [state appropriations], along with tuition revenue, is used to pay salaries for faculty and to pay utilities, heating, cooling, water and all of those types of expenses, so we have to pay people and bill the state, and then they reimburse us,” Winter said. “If you go back 10-15 years [the state] used to reimburse us after two weeks, but back in the fall of 2009 it got to where it could be six months sometimes.”
Winter said the cash reserve has gotten to the size it is now
“The first reason is as a self-loan fund,” Winter said. “Having [a cash reserve] as a shock absorber, a contingency fund is another reason that we let it get to $27 million.”
According to Winter, over the last 15 years, the cash reserve has grown from 1 to 2.5 percent at $2 to $3 million in cash reserves to 8 percent, 12 percent and, now, 14 percent at $27 million in cash reserves.
In Fiscal Year 2014 SIUE had a 1 percent, across the board, budget cut for the general operating budget, in the Fiscal Year 2015 there was a 3.2 percent budget cut and then in Fiscal Year 2016 there was a budget impasse where there was a 9 percent budget reallocation for a sum total of 13.2% over three years.
The 9% budget realignment in Fiscal Year 2016 included 25 layoffs and the elimination of 44 vacant positions. The layoffs included no tenure or tenure-track faculty and only 2 non-tenure track faculty positions in order to maintain the quality of academic programs delivered to students.
“If you add those up, that’s about 13-plus percent over time, and it was about 19 million dollars in total savings,” Winter said. “So we had, as a result of those budget cuts, had developed a surplus of revenue over expense so that the revenue exceeded expense each year for several years and allowed us to build up [the cash reserve].”
Professor of Music and Faculty Association president Kim Archer said the Faculty Association asked for the university budget and discovered the cash reserve. She said the reserve grew during the budget impasse in 2016.
“So, it started at $8 million in 2012 and now it’s $27 million dollars, so all this time when faculty had been going without phones and going without raises and they were making us do these frightening austerity exercises about cutting what SIUE spends, and at the same time they were actually adding to their savings account,” Archer said.
Winter said the cash reserve has not grown every year as some may believe.
“I’ve seen people make comments that the reserve has gone up every year — that’s not true,” Winter said. “In Fiscal Year 2016 we had a 71 percent budget cut from the state, 42 million that they cut us, so our cash reserve actually at that point became negative. It was about 1.2 million negative.”
In Fiscal Year 2017, SIUE received funding from the state that allowed them to have surplus to build the cash reserve back up.
According to Winter the average for all 12 public Illinois universities is $33 million and SIUE has one of the lowest cash reserves.
“[SIUE] also has the lowest paid faculty in the state, depending on what kind of demographics you look at, and they also have the lowest tuition in the state,” Archer said. “Proportionally [Winter] has a percentage. As a percentage of the total budget for Eastern or Western or Northern, how much is their cash reserve and then, as a percentage of their total budget, how much is SIUE’s? That would be a more fair way to discuss that.”
Winter said giving the faculty raises could mean finding new funding or cutting expenses.
“We’ve tried to match the one time expenses with the one time cash reserves — faculty are obviously cored to what we do and faculty salaries are important — but the one thing to consider is that you are using one-time money to fund an expense that you are going to have every year,” Winter said. “You still have to identify a source of funding, so you have to have new funding coming in or you have to cut expenses and stop paying for something to free up money to pay for something else.”
Vice Chancellor for Administration Rich Walker said both sides are working to reach an agreement.
“Representatives of SIUE and the Faculty Association continue to meet weekly, and we agreed to accelerate the negotiation process in hopes of reaching an agreement as soon as possible,” Walker said. “It is taking a long time, of course, because it is complex and there is extensive nature and complexities of the proposals that are being exchanged on both sides, and I think both are continuing to work in earnest towards reaching an agreement.”