Impasse forcing more cuts at Richland

Illinois Capitol News

DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s been a tough few years for Richland Community College. It’s lost nearly a quarter of its students since 2011 and the budget impasse continues making matters worse.

The school’s board of trustees announced it will be cutting back spending by nearly $1 million. It’s been an impossible game of hide and seek for schools searching for disappearing state funds.

“It’s frustrating.”

“It’s place us in a difficult position.”

For RCC, cutbacks have become the norm. This year, it’s reducing spending by $1 million.

“We do have a balanced budget, but we had to do some fairly significant reductions to get to that point.”

Last fall, more than a dozen faculty members were laid off and the school was forced to close its child care center last month.

“To lose people like that is very sad.”

For students, the news isn’t getting better. Without reliable state funding, construction will stop at the school’s new Student Success Center. The project has been on-again-off-again since it started in 2015.

“The project just got started again this January and, here we are, projects here, construction guys are working. They’re doing a great job and if there’s no budget by the end of next week, the project is mothballed.”

It’s a critical time for construction inside the student center and, if the project shuts down, it will cost $20,000 – $30,000 just to keep it safe from weather conditions.

“We could see significant damage to all those materials and all those pieces of equipment and then we’d have to come back in again. The taxpayers’ burdening that responsibility to cover additional costs.”

Workers will face an even bigger burden.

“There’s about 30 – 40 guys here that’s going to go home next Friday with no pay.”

Father of five, Anthony Shinshang, says he has one message for lawmakers before the June 30 deadline.

“No pay for you if there’s no pay for us to do our job.”

“The deadline is quickly going to be here.”

The new student center costs about $6 million and was set to open this fall. School leaders say they’re about halfway through the construction process, but are still waiting for about $3 million from the state.

Richland is the only community college in town. Just last year, it saw a 5% decrease in attendance. The state owes RCC more than $5 million in funding.

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