Aug. 9, 2013
A letter to the Brock Community:
Brock has not escaped the serious financial problems afflicting universities across Canada, and in the coming weeks we will be taking significant steps to deal with our challenge.
Earlier this summer, Brock’s Board of Trustees was presented with a 2013-14 budget that had a $14.5-million deficit. In passing the budget, the Board directed University staff to identify and implement deficit mitigation measures that will reduce the deficit to $7-million by the end of the budget year, April 30, 2014.
These measures have been discussed with several governance bodies at the University, including Senate; the Senate Planning, Priorities and Budget Advisory Committee; the Board of Trustees Executive Committee; and the Board’s Financial Planning, Investment and Human Resources Committee.
For several years, Brock has been able to fund increasing operating costs largely through enrolment and tuition growth. We can no longer use this method of revenue growth, in part because tuition increases have been capped at Ontario universities, but also because the rate of enrolment growth for domestic students that can be accommodated for Fall-Winter in our classrooms must necessarily be substantially less than it has been, largely because our physical infrastructure is already fully used.
Other factors also contribute to Brock’s situation. One of the biggest is a problem that is common to many major institutions: the increasing shortfall in our pension fund. Other issues include reduced government grants, new taxes on international students, growing utility bills and the completion of new buildings whose costs need to be paid.
We are not alone. The entire sector is grappling with deficits, and universities from coast to coast are taking serious measures to deal with the problem. In recent months, cuts or reductions have been announced on campuses from University of Northern British Columbia to St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, and in between at the universities of Calgary, Regina, Saskatchewan and PEI, to name just a few.
It is important to note that this deficit mitigation effort is NOT part of the Program Review currently being undertaken by a Presidential Task Force. The Program Review is a longer-term initiative, whose results could take several years to implement.
Rather, the deficit mitigation measures discussed in this letter are intended to take effect in the current budget year and produce permanent, recurring savings.
Some of the deficit mitigation measures we plan to introduce include:
A six-month hiring delay for all non-teaching positions that became vacant on or after Aug. 1, 2013
• This will apply to all non-teaching positions except those for which an exemption may be appropriate due to legal, contracted or urgent business reasons.
• Besides enabling unspent salary, wages and benfits to contribute to deficit reduction, this delay will enable departments to review the necessity of the position and, where reasonable, identify opportunities to share, combine or eliminate positions.
Encouraging expanded use of the voluntary vacation buyback program
• We will also increase administrative flexibility so that employees who missed application deadlines might be able to reapply.
A review of University positions for redundancy
• Senior administrators will review position allocation to look for opportunities to adjust staffing levels through, for example, shared service arrangements.
Reduced non-essential travel paid from the operating budget
• For example, when training and conferences could be held at multiple locations, the least costly location should be selected.
• Unit retreats, conferences and other gatherings should be held on campus whenever possible, to avoid travel and room rental costs.
Reduced food and drink service at all meetings paid from the operating budget
• Elimination of catered coffee/refreshment/snack breaks at meetings.
• Catered lunches for midday meetings are to remain modest. University Services will be communicating recommended lunch options for group meetings.
• The purchase or expensing of alcohol will not be reimbursed, with exceptions made by the President or a Vice-President.
Suspension of non-essential equipment purchases paid from the operating budget
• Supervisors retain authorization for equipment purchases, in consultation with their senior administrator.
• Equipment purchases are to be delayed, postponed or cancelled when there would be no significant benefit to unit performance.
Constraint with respect to usage of PDR (professional development reimbursement) and research accounts where possible
• PDR accounts will continue to accumulate if unspent. However, prudent restraint will help the University preserve cash and reduce expenses.
• If requested, extensions on University-funded research accounts will be considered by the VP Research or Dean, depending on origin of funds.
Tracking of mitigation measures
• All unspent dollars will be tracked and recorded as they are identified.
• Finance will open a mitigation account in each operating cost centre, for both salary and non-salary savings.
• Quarterly reports will be produced.
We are endeavouring to find innovative ways to deal with the budget situation at Brock, and I can assure you that these measures and any other deficit-reduction steps will be implemented with the clear goal of not affecting the University’s academic mission.
I welcome input and feedback from the Brock community on any of these measures. People can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .
President and Vice-Chancellor