Senate OK’s university budget

The university will spend $759.1 million in 2017-18 – an increase of 4.3 per cent over last year – on infrastructure to address parking, scholarships to assist students and research initiatives to help faculty. In particular, $1 million will be added in base funding to begin implementing the Indigenous Strategic Plan with the creation of a new academic department and faculty appointment in the area of Indigenous teaching, scholarship and outreach.

At its April 21 meeting, Senate approved the 2017-18 University Operating and Capital Budgets by a 39-19 vote. The budget now heads to the Board of Governors for final approval May 4.

This is the third year of a four-year budget planning period, and will see expenditures exceed revenue projections of $756.4 million, an increase of 2.4 per cent from last year, resulting in an in-year deficit of $2.7 million. This will leave Western’s operating reserve at $61.5 million at the end of 2017-18.

Janice Deakin, Provost and Vice-President (Academic), said this budget builds on the multi-year plan developed two years ago in the context of the strategic plan, Achieving Excellence on the World Stage, and is in a period of constrained growth revenue, expected to be around 2 per cent each year, beyond the current four-year cycle.

“The two major sources of revenue – government grants and tuition fees – have recently been confirmed for the remaining two years of our four-year planning period,” said Deakin, adding the structure has been modified where, starting with 2017-18, grant funding for domestic enrolment growth will not be provided.

“The government has committed to keeping our overall level of provincial grant funding constant/flat for the next three years. The current domestic student tuition framework, which allows for the overall average increase of 3 per cent, has been extended for two more years (2017-18 and 2018-19).”

Western continues to stay the course on undergraduate enrolment, targeting 5,100 first-year students, with tuition revenue of $379.4 million, an increase of $17.8 million from last year. The university also looks to grow the number of international students to 600, or about 12 per cent of all new undergraduate students.

The base budgets for faculties stand at $379.3 million, almost 65 per cent of the university’s total operating budget.

Deakin said growing endowments at the university continues to be a priority. Since 2010-11, a total of $43.5 million has been allocated to support the Endowed Chairs Program. To date, 18 of a possible 29 endowed chairs have been realized, with an additional eight chairs being discussed. Given the program’s success, Deakin said $25 million in one-time funding has been allocated to support the program.

“From this new allocation, a commitment will be made to assign a minimum of one chair to each faculty, for up to three years,” she said.

Other one-time expenditures include:

  • Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program ($2.5 million);
  • Pedestrian-Friendly and Campus Safety Initiative ($2 million);
  • Energy Conservation Initiative ($1.5 million); and
  • Artificial turf playing fields ($500,000).

The $1 million in base funding, planned for the Indigenous Strategic Plan, will see $390,000 transferred to the Faculty of Social Science to support the creation of a new department and $147,000 allocated to the Faculty of Law to create a new faculty appointment. Specific plans for the remaining $463,000 will be developed in the coming months.

Capital expenditures for the 2017-18 budget will be $136.2 million. New construction is budgeted at $57.8 million for projects including the Western Interdisciplinary Research Building, ThreeC+ (new Engineering building), the Integrated Learning and Innovation Centre and multi-level parking structures. Another $29.3 million will be used for maintenance and renovation projects for University College, medical school facilities and the modernization of Thames Hall.

“It’s central to our educational experience and aspiration,” Deakin said of the new construction and renovations planned for the university. “The student population has grown since 2010 and students need space, they need classrooms, and part of that is building new buildings. We need to have adequate, or better than adequate, facilities for the best student experience and to support the work of our faculty members and staff members. We have to improve and modernize our existing buildings.”

But with new construction comes new problems – with parking. Or lack thereof.

Deakin said this is being addressed.

“Where do we build? On parking lots? As we build on parking lots, it puts more pressure on our campus with finding places to park,” she said, adding the safety of students, staff and faculty is also a high priority. “We are looking at (parking) garages, looking at the concept and feasibility of having them on the fringe lands, perhaps on lands where we’re not allowed to put ‘real’ buildings on, generally the periphery.”