The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met Tuesday, Dec. 8 to hear and take action on fiscal issues and pass new policy.
The board heard from SIC President Dr. Jonah Rice that Southeasterns’s bond rating remained the same as five years ago at AA- from Standard and Poor’s.
“That’s great news considering the state and most universities in Illinois recently had their credit ratings drop,” said Rice. “I appreciate all the work of the board and the entire campus in helping us maintain that strong rating.”
That rating is good news as the board passed two bond issues, one for Protection/Health/Safety (PHS) work as well as a Working Cash bond.
These bonds will allow the college to work on many deferred maintenance projects, including elevator, water tower, lighting and safety measures.
The working cash bond will be used for internal borrowing considering the State’s delinquency on payments to higher education.
Dean of administration and business affairs, David Wright, presented the annual tax levy proposal, one that fell under the threshold of voter referendum.
“This board has been very conservative on the years in maintaining stability in the tax levy and rates,” Wright said.
Kemper CPA Group partner Matthew Businaro presented the annual audit which was highly positive despite challenging State news that Rice presented.
“We’re hearing a pretty steady stream of information that says the State may ask higher education to eat a year’s worth of funding. That’s pretty tough to swallow,” Rice said.
Rice also told the board that would force the College in a position to engage Working Cash transfers in the spring and manage cash flow carefully in the fall.
“We’ve also been told we may not see the State catch up on what they will pay us until maybe Christmas next year. That’s 18 months without any State funds,” Rice continued.
Rice said while SIC is not flush with cash, it is in a better position than other colleges to weather some of this storm.
“SIC has recognized for many years this storm was coming, and we tried to be as prepared as possible whereas I don’t think some colleges took aggressive enough steps to protect themselves,” said Rice. “Some like SIC did, and we will be able to sustain ourselves longer than others, but let’s face it: this is not a race anyone wins if the state strikes their debt, cuts budgets, and delays payments.”
The Board heard of multiple cost savings initiatives including freezing positions, cutting travel including the board’s, sharing services with local colleges, reducing athletic budgets, and downsizing administrative staff as retirements take place, including a key cabinet position.
Dr. Frank Barbre, a long-time SIC Board member, reported that many colleges in the state are dealing with budget challenges as well as following closely recent legislation that affects units of local government.
“It is an anomalous time for all of higher education in Illinois,” said Barbre.
Barbre also announced that trustees from across the state will eliminate spring travel to some significant meetings due to cost.
Also, the board heard SIC was up in credit hours and students at mid-term, close to 1.5% up from last year.
“We had two very small high school senior classes cycle through and some new program initiatives that helped enrollment this year,” said dean for student services and enrollment, Chad Flannery.
“That was good news and a positive direction,” said SIC Board member Debbie Hughes.
Part of the reason for enrollment was attributed to SIC’s low tuition.
“SIC was recently named a ‘Tuition Hero’ by a national organization due to our affordable rates,” said Flannery. “You really can’t beat the quality and affordability at SIC.”
The board also passed new policy on financial aid refunds, withdrawal and ability to benefit. The new policies help ensure continued compliance with the Higher Learning Commission. Also approved was a master facilities plan for the college including projects related to PHS improvements.
In personnel, the board accepted the resignations of Greg Dunning, part-time custodian and groundskeeper and Kelly Crider, Assistant Toddler Teacher. The board approved the employment of Mark Stucker, part-time custodian and groundskeeper, Casey Fritts, part-time food service assistant, Lindsey Bullman, Mary Jo Oldham Child Study Center Coordinator, Erica Gwaltney, food service manager and Aaron Aul, temporary physics instructor.
The board also approved a new, smaller administrative structure to be implemented June 1, 2016 when Dr. Dana Keating, vice-president, retires.
The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Boardroom.