Making up most of shortfall forces University to make difficult choices: Summerlee
BY LORI BONA HUNT
U of G's preliminary 2006/2007 Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities operating budget is heading to Board of Governors April 20 for debate and a vote, and once again, the University is facing many fiscal challenges, says president Alastair Summerlee.
There will be no government funding to cover inflationary increases, yet utility and benefit costs continue to climb, and the University continues to face increased pressure from its aging infrastructure. As a result, there is a funding gap in the budget as inflation costs outstrip expected revenues, Summerlee says.
We are frustrated and disappointed with the budget situation that we and every other university in Ontario face.
The budget gap will be filled through a number of means. As reported in the last issue of At Guelph, tuition increases will provide an additional $3.7 million in revenue, although tuition fees for international students will be frozen for the remainder of their programs. Delaying a major capital project in Parking Services and charging ancillary units their share of service cost increases will generate another $1 million. A $1-million base-budget increase that was planned to address deferred maintenance will be eliminated. Finally, the University estimates that increases in utility costs will be $2 million less than projected due to a decrease in gas rates and to energy-saving initiatives implemented on campus.
The result is a budget that's about $1 million short of being balanced, but it's hoped this gap can be closed through various adjustments during the coming fiscal year.
Summerlee says it's important to keep in mind that the budget contains additional unknowns. Some of the revenue that's been included is based on assumptions because some government grants have yet to be confirmed. In addition, funding in several areas is tied to performance or to meeting targets such as expanding graduate enrolment.
Making up most of the shortfall forced the University to make some difficult choices, including raising tuition, says Summerlee. But the budget decisions that have been made aim to minimize the impact on positions and preserve quality where possible, he says, adding that U of G will try to avoid further across-the-board cuts.
The president notes that all Ontario universities are planning similar tuition increases for domestic students, an unfortunate but essential decision that was made to protect quality. U of G will closely monitor the effect the increases have on students, especially new ones, he says. It will also direct any additional financial aid to support students who have not been eligible for such aid in the past, and will seek to support graduate students and international students who will be affected by the proposed increases in tuition for next year.
The preliminary budget was reviewed and discussed by Senate April 4 and 11 and forwarded to B of G, which meets April 20 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 1200 of the Thornbrough Building. The meeting was moved from its usual location to accommodate a larger audience. Tickets for the meeting are available from the Board Secretariat on Level 4 of the University Centre.
Members of the University will have one more opportunity to offer comments and feedback on the budget at a special open forum April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 1714 of OVC's Lifetime Learning Centre.
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