URBANA — Looking ahead to the 2015 fiscal year, the University of Illinois is planning to request a slightly larger appropriation from the state.
Christophe Pierre, the UI's vice president for academic affairs, described the preliminary budget request for fiscal year 2015 as incrementally higher from the current year.
The uptick in the UI's request represents a bit of optimism early on in the university's budget process. For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2014, the UI's state appropriation was essentially flat, at $663.4 million, according to Pierre. The year before. the university saw its appropriation cut by about 6.2 percent.
Pierre said he took the flat funding level for the current fiscal year as good news. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the budget legislation earlier this summer and the university is currently finalizing its operating budget for the year. The university ended fiscal year 2013 with the state owing the UI $180 million.
"It's important to remain optimistic and it's important to articulate the needs the university has," Pierre said about the preliminary request for 2015.
The audit, budget and facilities committee of UI Board of Trustees reviewed the preliminary request Monday. A formal request will go to the board this fall and eventually it will be forwarded to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, which then forwards state appropriation requests to the governor's office. It's likely the UI won't finalize the 2015 budget until next summer.
The preliminary 2015 budget request calls for an additional $53.7 million to strengthen the university's "academic quality," which includes money for faculty and staff raises, promotions and new positions. An additional $25 million is requested for various facility operations, including utilities and maintaining new buildings. Also, an additional $8.4 million is requested to meet inflationary increases such as in insurance and purchases for the library, according to Pierre.
As in previous years, he said, the budget request emphasizes the institution's need to enhance its competitive position and the need to recruit excellent faculty and students and provide state-of-the art facilities for teaching and research.
Among the challenges facing the university: the long-term downward trend in state appropriations, anticipated new pension costs to the university and employees, rising employee costs for health care benefits, tuition rates approaching their limits, and a growing need for financial aid, among others.
The objective, Pierre said, is to "plan coherently and strategically for the long-term excellence and academic reputation of the university."