Budget gets Senate approval, moves to Board

Western is putting forward an operating budget of $792.2 million, a plan that includes drawing $14 million from reserves to help make up a forecast 2.2-per-cent drop in revenues.

Senate was told Friday that the 2019-20 numbers are part of a two-year budget plan that takes into account “significant financial pressures” facing postsecondary institutions. This budget assumes stability in grants, modest enrolment growth and lower tuition fees for domestic students, coupled with an increase both in international student numbers and in their tuition fees.

With Senate’s endorsement of the budget, Western’s Board of Governors is expected to approve the document at its April meeting.

One key in the planning process is a reduction in revenue stemming from a provincially mandated 10-per cent rollback in tuition fees for Ontario students. Western’s budget document shows this will result in a shortfall in tuition revenue of $43 million by the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Still unknown is the impact of provincial decisions to restructure the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and to allow students to opt out of some ancillary services.

Total spending is forecast to increase by .3 per cent, in part because of short-term spending that will reduce costs in the longer term. A new, one-time $10-million Efficiency and Innovation Fund will support initiatives that lead to major revenue generation and/or cost savings in faculties and support units.

The budget also notes a target enrolment of 5,300 first-year students next school year. The aim is to increase the number of international students to 15 per cent of the total student body; increase enrolment from out-of-province students to at least 10 per cent of the undergraduate total; and increase graduate enrolment to at least 20 per cent of the total.

Several senators argued against the budgeted plan that would see operating money used to pay for some building improvements. They instead favoured directing a portion towards faculty and departmental budgets that have had to make spending cuts.

In the end, Senate endorsed the original budget document by a 36-13 vote, with nine abstentions.

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Total revenues: $778.2 million (a drop of 2.2 per cent from 2018-19).

  • Where that money comes from: tuition $388.3 million (50 per cent of the total); government grants, $293.4 million (38 per cent of the total); $96.5 million; all other sources (12 per cent).

Total expenses: $792.2 million, an increase of 0.3 per cent.

  • Where that money goes: faculties, $475.3 million (61 per cent of total); support units, $101.5 million (13 per cent); university-wide expenditures, $80 million (10 per cent); scholarships and bursaries, $32.7 million (4 per cent); all other spending, $102.7 million (12 per cent).

One-time operating-fund spending:

  • $12 million to continue the Endowed Chairs Matching Program;
  • $12 million for space/facilities funding – $5 million for Indigenous learning spaces and $7 million for the next stage of medical school facilities renewal project;
  • $10 million for Efficiency and Innovation Fund to support initiatives that lead to major revenue generation and/or cost savings in faculties and support units;
  • $8 million to support Engineering faculties expansion and renewal;
  • $3 million to support imaging innovations at Robarts Research Institute;
  • $452,000 to attract and retain top postdoctoral talent; and
  • $400,000 base allocation to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Capital spending, $95.3 million:

  • New facilities, $24.8 million – Biomedical Research Facility; Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre expansion;
  • Major renovations, $20.6 million – Thames Hall (and creating Western Wellness Centre) and D.B. Weldon Library;
  • Utilities and infrastructure, $8 million;
  • Modernization of instructional and research areas, $9.3 million;
  • General maintenance, $14.3 million;
  • Residence renewals, $13.1 million; and
  • $5.4 million for all other capital expenses (including carrying costs and debt repayment).

Some other budget facts:

  • Library acquisitions budget is $15.4 million;
  • Canada Research Chairs funding – $5.8 million ($4.2 million for Tier 1 CRCs and $1.6 million for Tier 2 CRCs);
  • About half of Western’s space was built before 1980. Replacement value of non-residential buildings on campus is $2.1 billion and of residences, $437 million;
  • Energy conservation is expected to provide $500,00 in rebates; and
  • Tuition fees for most general first-year, first-entry programs – domestic students, $6,050 (-10 per cent cost of 2018-2019) and international students, $31,042-$41,312 (+8 per cent and +12 per cent), depending on program.