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Article updated: 8/23/2013 6:19 PM

Harper budget decreases slightly after dip in enrollment

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Harper College trustees this week unanimously passed a balanced budget, but officials cautioned that state funding and pensions could impact the bottom line.

Overall operational spending in fiscal year 2014 is budgeted to decrease slightly due to a dip in enrollment last year.

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The education fund budget was set at $89 million, representing a 0.5 percent decrease from the previous year. The fund covers the cost of instruction including faculty, administrative and professional salaries and educational supplies and equipment.

Spokesman Phil Burdick said enrollment in the 2012-13 school year fell 2.7 percent, leading Harper to hire fewer adjunct faculty and adjust its spending on faculty salaries.

Harper experienced record enrollment three years ago due to the recession and the number of government programs aimed at getting workers retrained, Burdick said.

Enrollment has returned to more normal levels since then, though early reports indicate a 4.5 percent jump in enrollment this year. Burdick cited a growing number of traditional-age students coming to the Palatine campus.

Harper's operation and maintenance fund budget was set at $17.9 million, representing a 0.7 percent decrease from the previous year. The fund covers the costs of campus maintenance, repairs and utilities.

The budget also calls for $81.3 million in capital projects spending this year. Most will be allocated to the recently approved indoor parking structure and the renovation of both the general classroom building, and career and technology center. About $113.5 million will remain in the capital reserve fund.

Harper officials also expect to move forward with the design development phase of the future One-Stop Student Center on campus now that the schematic design is complete.

The budget includes $6.6 million in state support, which makes up 6 percent of revenue. Harper officials project state funding to decrease in the future and are looking at finding other revenue sources to compensate.

Illinois lawmakers are considering shifting the cost of employee pensions from the state onto community colleges and state universities. Harper officials said a bill that didn't become law would have cost Harper about $8.4 million annually after a phase-in period.

"Despite uncertainty about pensions and the percentage decline in state revenues, we are pleased to present a budget that honors the board's commitment to fiscal responsibility," Harper President Ken Ender said in a statement.

"With today's difficult job market, it's critical that Harper provide programs that will help workers learn new skills and retrain for new careers as well as provide an affordable alternative to soaring tuition at traditional four-year universities," he said.

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