As we near spring and the impending announcement of the provincial budget, I feel it is important to begin updating the University community on the preparation of our budget in relation to the Campus Alberta Operating Grant.
The University is still anticipating a two per cent increase in the operating grant, as was previously indicated by the provincial government, and while our budget scenarios begin with this figure, different scenarios have been calculated should the actual percentage be changed when the provincial budget is released.
Should the operating grant reflect a two per cent increase, the University will still be in the position of needing to reduce its overall budget by approximately $1.5 million, in large part due to the tuition freeze that is currently in place and no promise of alternate funding to make up for this shortfall.
Through a variety of reduction programs over the past few years, including voluntary exit programs, the use of strategic priority funds and not filling empty positions, we have positioned ourselves so that we do not anticipate having to introduce further initiatives to reduce the budget if the grant increase does indeed come in at two per cent. We feel that we have done the proper planning and made the right decisions around allocations, and that while we still must reduce funds in certain areas, we are in a favourable position to manage a two per cent increase.
One of the key factors that has allowed us to reach this level of confidence in our budget process is through the budget reorganization we initiated in 2013. That process and the subsequent changes it endorsed have guided the University’s budget process since and given us a much greater ability to manage the overall budget of the University. It has allowed us to go through the decision-making process at a macro level, engaging all units on campus, and given us a much greater understanding at the costs per academic and non-academic unit. This has led to strategic, university-wide budget decisions.
I must emphasize that in the nearly-seven years that I’ve been here, we have had to go through this process of seeking reductions in our budget every single year and it is becoming more and more difficult to find savings. The decisions are not easy to make but in every instance, we are guided by the three key values of people, quality and access. As we go through the budget each spring, these tenets influence our decisions.
We are mindful that as we look to find savings, we are also actively seeking opportunities to continue to evolve as an institution. As we eye innovation and new directions, we are acutely aware that these bear costs. This underscores the continued importance of philanthropy and industrial and community partnerships that can support new and innovative programming. Whether it be the AGILITY program, the Centre for Oral History and Tradition or continued work in the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, to name just a few recent beneficiaries, we are continuously looking for external funds to support important academic and non-academic initiatives.
As we near the release of the provincial budget, I will continue to update the University community on any elements that may affect our budget, and I thank you for your participation in this process.