SIU's System CEO says Governor Bruce Rauner's proposal to shift pension and health insurance costs to universities still needs some clarification.
President Randy Dunn says the Governor's call to shift employee pension and health insurance costs from the state to universities is not insignificant. But he says the financial blow will be easier to absorb with the replacement funds Rauner included in the spending plan for next year.
Dunn says a big question remains: How long will the state distribute additional money for universities to pick up the burden?
"I think that question won't get answered until we see what future budgets look like, and again that's why we're somewhat nervous to see how all of this unfolds. If you think about the total cost of the contribution for both pension costs and healthcare, it's a sizeable amount."
Dunn says SIU's pension and healthcare costs top $180 million per year - something that would be difficult to pay for all at once.
Governor Rauner's proposal would have universities pay 25% of the pension costs in FY 19, with a plan for increasing that amount another 25% each year for four years.
Meanwhile, Rauner is asking lawmakers to approve additional funding for public colleges and universities to take care of much-needed maintenance on their campuses.
In his proposed budget, Rauner asked for $100 million to take care of what's called "deferred maintenance" across the state. Dunn says he's glad to hear the call for more money, but says it won't cover much.
"If you add up every possible project for repair and renovation just within the SIU System, we're talking about three-quarters of a billion dollars of need that exists."
Dunn says that amount covers everything from small repairs to building renovations. He says most state universities are looking at similar backlogs in repair and upkeep because of declining state support.