NORMAL — Faced with declining enrollment and local property tax values and uncertainty in Springfield over pensions, the Heartland Community College board adopted a balanced operating budget of about $33.21 million for fiscal year 2014, up 3.1 percent from the previous year.
“We knew our resources were going to be tight, and we tried to craft a budget around that,” said Rob Widmer, vice president of
For example, this year Heartland introduced zero-based budgeting for everything except regular full- and part-time personnel costs, he said. That essentially meant starting from scratch on every budget line item for about a third of the budget rather than building on what had been budgeted the previous year.
“Knowing we were going to have budget challenges, we wanted people to question their budgets and have a solid basis for those budgets,” he said.
The budget projects a 4 percent decrease in enrollment and flat state aid — which is considered a victory in these state budget times, Widmer said. The district that used to count on 5 percent annual growth in property tax values saw its first-ever decrease, of 0.71 percent, this year, he said.
Downward trends in enrollment and property values should rebound soon, he said, noting tuition and fees account for 46.3 percent of the budget and local revenue yields 34.3 percent.
Whether the college will have to assume a greater share of pension costs is “the really significant cloud hanging over the 2014 budget,” according to Widmer’s report.
A hearing and final approval of the budget, which takes effect July 1, is expected at the Sept. 17 board meeting.
The board also approved seeking a role as a managing member in the limited liability company that will run the Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network.
Illinois State University received nearly $18 million in federal money in 2010 to develop CIRBN to provide high-speed, low-cost fiber-optic Internet access to 19 Central Illinois communities. Heartland is both a major customer and hub for the network.
The new LLC ISU founded will take over operations July 31. The town of Normal also has approved becoming a managing member, and the city of Bloomington is considering it. The corporation likely would hire a third party to run the day-to-day operations.