U of A board approves 2010–11 budget
University Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Carl Amrhein says it was an extremely challenging year for the university in preparing its 2010–11 budgets. The operating deficit, he said, ultimately results from the difficult economic times, and while the deficit will present challenges in the coming year for the university, the number could have been worse were it not for the university community effectively coming together to find solutions.
“As we went into planning for the 2010–11 fiscal year the projected budget gap was $59 million. To reduce the gap by as much as we were able is a testament to the commitment of all groups at the U of A working together with the goal of preserving the level of excellence in teaching, research and the student experience here. Getting to this budget was a remarkable exercise in collaboration and co-operation across the institution,” Amrhein said. “The result is that the impact on the university will be as minimal as it can be given the economic realities.”
Amrhein said the reduction in the budget gap was possible thanks to “balanced approach,” which saw new revenue streams, reductions in expenditures and the achieving of greater administrative efficiencies.
The board approved a Common Student Space, Sustainability and Services fee. This is a new non-instructional fee for all full-time students of $145 per term. Originally proposed at $275 per term, the smaller fee will be in place for two years and reviewed annually.
“We reduced the fee in response to a lot of the conversations we’ve been having with leaders of the various student organizations and we think it is a balanced approach to maintain the quality of the institution and opportunities for the students, and yet still deal with the vary legitimate student concerns about access to the institution,” said Amrhein
A target of reducing expenditures by five per cent, or $30 million, was included in the budget, along with both of the university’s staff associations (academic and non-academic staff) agreeing to furlough days as a means of reducing staffing costs. Finally, administrative efficiencies were found totaling about $10 million.
As a result of reducing budget expenditures by five per cent across the university, layoffs are inevitable. Such staffing implications are the responsibility of the university’s faculties and operating units, and will take place as the university community begins to apply the required cut to their operations. However, Amrhein says the goal was to minimize the impact as much as possible.
“We will continue to look for savings and efficiencies within the university’s budgets and continue to look for additional revenue to help offset that operating deficit,” said Amrhein.
Faculty and staff were offered the option of taking five voluntary personal-leave days without pay. There is also a Voluntary Retirement Incentive Plan, which will provide an opportunity for long-serving faculty and staff to take early retirement. The cost saving of these initiatives are still being calculated.
“The University of Alberta is operating in a North American if not global environment in which many of its peer institutions are facing similar pressures,” said Amrhein. “If you look at the overall position of the University of Alberta, you could make a good argument that we are still better off.”
U of A President Indira Samarasekera agrees that the university’s collegial approach to the challenges faced in preparing the budget was instrumental in keeping the budget’s impact as minimal as possible.
“We have faced and will continue to face tough financial choices as we put this budget into action,” said Samarasekera. “Moving forward, our goal will continue to be to limit the loss of talented and valued staff and to sustain the excellence in teaching and research for which the university is recognized. In spite of current challenges, the University of Alberta is a very strong and vibrant institution, a leader in Canada and the world.
“There is no other university where I’d rather be.”