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Eastern Illinois Lays Off 177 Employees as Budget Crisis Drags On

Eastern Illinois University announced on Friday that it was laying off 177 employees, a cut in the size of its civil-service work force of roughly 30 percent, because of the state’s continuing budget stalemate. The standoff, between the Republican governor, Bruce V. Rauner, and the Democratic-led legislature has left public colleges without state money for nearly nine months.

The civil-service group includes housing and dining workers as well as members of the student-life and academic-support staffs, among others, said Vicki S. Woodard, a university spokeswoman. “It really affects offices throughout campus,” she said. Some professional administrative staff members have been forced to take one furlough day per week through the end of June, she added.

David M. Glassman, president of the university, said in a written statement that Eastern Illinois faculty, staff, and students were “victims of the lack of any bipartisanship and compromise by our state leaders.” Ms. Woodard said the university hoped the layoffs would be temporary. “The intent is to bring them all back” once the state enacts a budget, she said. “Until we get actual numbers and know what we’re dealing with, we can’t say for certain.”

Rumors circulated last fall that the university could close this semester due to the budget impasse, though officials have assured students that the institution will remain open. Eastern Illinois’s financial health has been affected by the lack of state money, however, with Moody’s Investors Service downgrading the university’s credit rating to junk-bond status last month.

Faculty members escaped this round of cutbacks. But unionized professors and academic-support staff members face a major vote next week. They will decide whether to accept a 5.6-percent pay cut through the end of the fiscal year, on June 30. Eastern Illinois says it’s $2 million short of making payroll, and it developed a proposal jointly with union leaders to deal with the gap. The institution would pay back the reductions for union members making less than $50,000 per year after receiving $5 million from the state for this fiscal year, and then, after receiving another $5 million, half of the cut for those making more than $50,000. If there’s no state appropriation for this year, though, the university wouldn’t have to reimburse the professors.

Ms. Woodard said the proposal would allow “faculty union-represented employees to join with other employee groups and help the university sustain operations through unprecedented financial challenges.”

Given that the reduction would have to be absorbed over just three and a half months, though, the cut would probably feel much more significant than 5.6 percent, Grant C. Sterling, the union’s vice president, told The Daily Eastern News, the campus newspaper. If members of the union approve the reduction, Mr. Sterling, an associate professor of philosophy, estimated that he would lose 17 percent of his pay for the rest of the fiscal year.

The Eastern Illinois faculty delayed a 1.5-percent pay increase last year to save 29 non-tenure-track positions.

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