Friday, June 20, 2014

How We Safeguard the Public Trust: Budget Magic at Chicago State

As a continuation of my earlier posts on the budget sleight-of-hand here at Chicago State, I offer a look at the past three fiscal years. Public budgets are designed to be transparent. Monetary amounts are attached to specific budget lines which have been approved by public bodies. These monetary amounts, or appropriations, provide the observer with a detailed description of how a public entity spends public funds. Or at least, that should be the case.

Here at Chicago State, our budget is a little more opaque. In fact, for the past three years, our administration has spent over $5 million to pay administrative and faculty salaries for positions that the university has never requested from the Illinois State Legislature. As I noted in my previous post, the administration is able to do this by moving money from a variety of accounts to fund these salaries. Altogether, in the past three years, Wayne Watson and his administration have hired at least 29 persons into positions which have apparently never been approved by the Board of Trustees or requested from the state. At the beginning of fiscal 2014, 21 individuals still occupied these unrequested positions. Here is the breakdown of expenditures by fiscal year:

The average salary of these positions year-by-year comes to around $100,000. The following table illustrates:

What do these figures demonstrate? In my estimation, the use of temporary funding for what are essentially permanent positions is designed to obscure the way the university’s administration spends tax dollars. This administration is and has been committed to the growth of its ranks and these budget shell games make that possible without the scrutiny of either the Board or the state. The fact that the Chicago State administration is able to come up with $5.3 million dollars for unappropriated administrative salaries seems to render dubious its claims of fiscal distress.

One of the documents I recently received through FOIA requests demonstrates how the administration creates positions then moves money around to serve other purposes. In this case, the administration created a position for an Associate Internal Auditor, moved money into that position (at this point from an unknown account), then decided the money was better spent on another lawyer for the university.

Obviously, at Chicago State, there is quite a bit of money. Particularly to increase our bloated administrative ranks.

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