Budget cuts driven by economy

All university faculties and departments are being told to cut more from their budgets in the wake of a downturn in the international economy.

 

The University of Western Ontario unveiled today a campus-wide budget update and letter to all employees as it works to maintain a balanced budget during some of the most challenging financial conditions in years.

The impact won’t be known until individual budgets have been developed but layoffs may be necessary.

“Our goal is to minimize the impact of these reductions through normal attrition, retirements, the potential for flexible employment arrangements, and careful scrutiny of the filling of current and future vacancies,” university administrators state in their letter to employees.

The letter is signed by President Paul Davenport; Fred Longstaffe, Provost & Vice-President (Academic); Gitta Kulczycki, Vice-President (Resources & Operations); Ted Hewitt, Vice-President (Research & International Relations); and Ted Garrard, Vice-President (External).

The university restated some plans announced earlier to temporarily shelve planning or construction on some capital projects such as the Physics and Astronomy building.

As well, Western must increase the amount each area must cut from individual budgets.

In making a budget submission, units are typically required to trim three per cent from their previous base budget. In the coming two years that reduction will be an average of 5.5 per cent.

The university will hold the line on hiring and re-appointments except in cases approved by a vice-president. “Only mission-critical positions will be approved,” states the update.

There’s no indication of the number of potential layoffs because circumstances will vary with each budget area and individual budgets are only now working through the expected cuts.

As well, the university will trim one-time and base university-wide spending planned for the remaining two years of the four-year planning period.

As a temporary measure, Western will withdraw plans to set aside $6 million as the university’s match in the event it wins a Canada Foundation for Innovation application. If Western wins one or more CFI projects, it will then revisit the budget to see the project through.

Budget documents highlight at least two areas where the university will make strong commitments in spite of difficult finances.

Regardless of the level of provincial support, “we are committed to our allocations in support of the graduate expansion through Western’s enrolment-based funding programs – the Enrolment Contingent Fund (ECF) and the Graduate Expansion Funds (GEF and GEF+).”  

In addition, the university will ensure no qualified student is unable to attend Western or be required to withdraw for lack of financial resources. Although the investment income that fuels some scholarships, awards and bursaries may no longer be available, Western says it will find the money elsewhere – likely the operating budget.

The next budget update will be contained in the Provost’s recommendations on faculty budgets to be released in mid-February. That document will include a brief report on support unit budgets.

To obtain more detail, employees are encouraged to review the documents linked above from this article and present questions and suggestions to their supervisors on how long-term sustainable reductions can be achieved.

“A collaborative approach will help to ensure that Western emerges even stronger in the future,” say administrators.

“Difficult economic times are challenging for everyone; however, they also present opportunities for new approaches to how we do our work.”