Board approves University budget

Western Libraries, Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) disciplines, the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity and Engineering’s plans for a new building are among of the areas that will be receiving support through 2016-17 Operating and Capital Budgets unanimously approved Thursday by the University’s Board of Governors.

The university is committed to spending $732.4 million in the next academic year’s operating budget. Rick Konrad, Board member and chair of the Property and Finance committee, noted the budget comes during challenging financial times when government funding is uncertain.

“It’s been said that a budget is not just a collection of numbers, but it’s an expression of values and our mission. I think our (Property and Finance) committee thinks this document successfully depicts this for Western,” he said. “It’s always a tough document in a challenging age when government funding is austere and that conservatism comes through. That competes with our strategic aspirations and our need to continue to grow, as do our operational needs.”

Included in the new investments Western is making are:

•    $5 million in one-time funds to create an endowment and $200,000 to spend in 2016-17 for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) disciplines to invest in areas such as supporting scholarship and research initiatives, which is a high priority for the university;
•    $1.1 million in one-time funding and an increase to the Libraries Acquisitions Base Budget of $500,000  to compensate for the lower Canadian dollar. Nearly 80 per cent of the libraries’ acquisitions must be paid in U.S. dollars, creating the equivalent of a $3 million increased cost for the libraries;
•    $55.7 million to support new construction, including the new academic building to house the Faculty of Information and Media Studies and Nursing; completion of the Music Building; the Western Interdisciplinary Research Building and the new Engineering Building;
•    $5.5 million in one-time funds to support the construction of a new Engineering building, along with $800,000 in base funding for the multi-year Engineering Expansion Plan that includes an expansion of enrolments and faculty and staff complements;
•    $15 million in one-time funds for construction of the Integrated Learning and Innovation Centre, which will create create additional student-centered teaching, learning, and innovation spaces
•    $1 million in one-time funds to support a Student Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. This means, regardless of their program, all students will be able to graduate with the opportunity to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills;
•    $6.6 million in one-time funds for facility enhancements and equipment and infrastructure renewals in the faculties;
•    $1.5 million investment for campus-wide energy conservation initiatives;
•    $2 million in one-time funding to support a multi-year plan to transform Western into a pedestrian-friendly and safe campus;
•    $500,000 in one-time funds to complete the $3-million endowment for the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities;
•    $500,000 in one-time funding in support of advertising initiatives related to the fundraising campaign;
•    $25.9 million in major renovation projects, such as the modernization of University College, re-alignment of medical school research facilities and renewal of instructional facilities in the Faculty of Education;
•    $8.5 million for utilities and infrastructure;
•    $9.8 million for modernization and adaptation of instructional and research facilities across campus;
•    $10.7 million for general campus maintenance;
•    $13.6 million to support renewal in residences; and
•    $10.2 million in all other capital expenditures, including carrying costs and debt repayment.

The cost of the one-time allocations exceeds the revenue projections of $728.5 million, resulting in Western having an in-year deficit of $3.9 million.

This budget cycle marks the end of the current Ontario government tuition framework, which limits the overall tuition increases to three per cent. In spite of the uncertain horizon for tuition revenues and additional government funding, the focus of the university remains on attracting top students to Western’s programs, notes Deakin.

“We don’t know what the government’s position is on tuition,” she said, noting indicators suggest it “will not be a more generous framework.”

“Meeting our enrolment targets is very important,” she said. “We will continue to attract high quality students.”

The budget was also unanimously supported by Western’s Senate earlier this month.

“At Western, we drive the highest proportion of our operating budget into the hands of the faculties of any of the U15 schools,” said Deakin, noting 65.9 per cent of the operating budget is distributed to faculties through base and one-time funds. “This means money into the hands of Deans and faculties to deliver programs for students.”