Budget gets Senate OK; heads to BOG

Key elements of Western’s proposed 2018-19 budget entail several multi-million-dollar projects, including re-locating the Western Wellness Centre to Thames Hall, renewing a pair of libraries and completing construction on the new Engineering building. Added academic and research spending includes money for more Indigenous scholars and faculty, enhancing the Endowed Chairs Matching Program and a pilot program to add top post-doctoral talent.

At its April 13 meeting, Senate approved the 2018-19 University Operating and Capital Budgets. The budget now heads to the Board of Governors for final approval April 26.

While revenues are projected to increase by about 2.7 per cent over this year, the increase in spending on a variety of programs would place the university into a revenue shortfall of about $21 million in a budget that totals $808.2 million in expenditures. The university plans to re-allocate about one-quarter of its operating reserves in order to balance the budget.

With an Ontario election in the offing – and the potential for policy changes at Queen’s Park – “we are still the middle of a lot of uncertainty,” Provost Janice Deakin said during her presentation to Senate.

This is the final year of the university’s four-year budget planning cycle. Both government grants and tuition fees – the university’s two largest revenue sources – have been confirmed for the final year of the planning period. The provincial government has confirmed its grants will be predictable but flat to the end of the 2019-20. The budget also proposes to increase tuition, on average, by three per cent in 2018-2019.

“Given the constrained revenue context, the incremental resources available to us will be more modest in the coming years than in the last three four-year cycles,” the budget document state. “In addition, we will have to wait for the results of the summer 2018 Ontario provincial election to assess the impact on future government funding for Ontario universities.”

Senate advised that Western’s Board of Governors approve the budget during the board’s next meeting on April 26.

Some highlights of new or enhanced proposed spending:

  • $10 million to create a Western Wellness Centre in Thames Hall (plus added $400,000 available in base funding for student mental-health services);
  • $15 million for a multi-phase renewal of the D.B. Weldon Library, including realignment to add student spaces;
  • $6.8 million towards Three C+, the new Engineering building (plus $898,000 in base funding);
  • $15 million to augment the Endowed Chairs Matching program;
  • $2.5 million to the endowment fund to supplement the Scholarship Research Initiatives in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) disciplines (resulting in about $400,000 more available to spend);
  • $2 million to implement Open Space Strategy to make campus safer, vehicle-free and pedestrian-friendly;
  • $1 million for more in energy conservation initiatives (with ultimate cost recovery through improved efficiency);
  • $226,000 for the first year of a two-year pilot Postdoctoral Fellowship Program to attract and retain top post-doctoral talent;
  • $600,000 for faulty appointments in Indigenous Education in support of Western’s Indigenous Strategic Plan;
  • $1 million to modernize instructional facilities through a one-time allocation;
  • $1.9 million to support a number of research-related initiatives, including research promotion and commercialization of intellectual property; and
  • $1 million to replace the artificial turf in TD Stadium.

Building on endowments – a high priority for the university – has, in the past seven years, meant $68.5 million has been allocated towards the Endowed Chairs Matching program. This budget recommends another $15 million in one-time funding be allocated next year to support this priority. With donor pledges both committed and pending, and with matching funds from the university, the plan is to add substantially to the number of endowed chairs at Western.

The plan also flags large allocations to two faculties that face “serious budgetary pressures” and are in a deficit position largely because of declining enrolments (a pattern reflected nation-wide in these disciplines): Proposed one-time additional allocations to the Faculty of Arts & Humanities and Don Wright Faculty of Music – $1.9 million and $415,000, respectively – come as the two faculties’ deans and the provost’s office work collaboratively on a multi-year plan that also includes strategic spending reductions.

The plan also includes adding $300,000 to the base budget for acquisitions at Western libraries. While inflation and the differential between the Canadian and U.S. dollars has put pressure on acquisitions spending, Deakin noted that several university peers in Canada have cut their libraries’ buying.

Facility-specific academic priorities within the budget include:

  • $110,000 to Arts & Humanities for a faculty appointment in the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research;
  • $100,000 to Health Sciences in support of a new graduate diploma in Applied Health Sciences, as well as faculty-wide educational and research priorities;
  • $150,000 to Information & Media Studies in support of a faculty appointment;
  • $125,000 to Science for a faculty appointment in Computer Science; and
  • $500,000 to Social Science to support faculty-wide educational and research initiatives.

Allocations to scholarships and bursaries are set to increase by $451,000, to $33.56 million.

Tuition fees for domestic students enrolled in most undergraduate programs are set to increase by 3 per cent and tuition increases for international undergraduates are set to rise by 8 per cent or 4 per cent, depending on their program and year. Tuition fees for master’s-level and PhD-level students are set to increase by 1.1 per cent in most programs and by 5.5 per cent in some specialized programs.

The plans forecast an incoming undergraduate class of 5,170; total graduate and undergraduate fulltime-equivalent enrolment on main campus to be 33,257; and total enrolment in all programs at affiliate colleges to be 5,757.

In addition to creating a one-stop mental health facility at Thames Hall, the addition of $400,000 in base funding for student mental health and wellness reflects a willingness to work with student groups to match funding for enhanced services, Deakin said. “The demands are high, the needs are high, and that’s our way of saying if the students want partnerships, the money has been set aside,” she said.

BY THE NUMBERS

Western boasts a total operating revenue of $787.3 million within its proposed 2018-19 budget. Sources of that revenue include:

Revenue sources

51.2% tuition;

36.8% government grants;

12% other

Western boasts total expenditures of $808.2 million within its proposed 2018-19 budget. Distribution of that money goes to:

62% faculties (base, plus one-time);

13% support units (base, plus one-time);

9.9% universitywide expenditures;

4.2% centrally funded student aid;

10.9% all other expenditures

CAPITAL PROJECTS

Proposed capital spending on new or renovated facilities: $104.2 million*

  • $31.2 million in new construction, including completing the Western Interdisciplinary Research Building (WIRB), the Three C+ and the Biomedical Research Facility and multi-level parking structures;
  • $14.9 million for major renovation projects, which includes modernizing University College and Thames Hall;
  • $16.5 million for utilities and infrastructure projects;
  • $4.8 million for modernizing/adapting instructional and research space;
  • $15.9 million for general campus maintenance projects;
  • $13.2 million for residence renewal; and
  • $7.7 million for all other capital expenditures, including carrying costs and debt repayment.

* Paid by government grants, transfers from operating budgets and unit budgets, fund-raising and self-funded initiatives – a number expected to total $104.2 million during the year.