More than a year and a half before the expected budgeting period, the University of Saskatchewan has published its operations forecast for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Despite the early planning, the operating budget already rings in at $14.5 million over budget. Revenues are expected to come in at $439.9 million while expenses outweigh these figures at $508.5 million.
However, Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn said the university’s current efforts to battle the looming 2015-16 deficit of $44.5 million might pay off for the 2014-15 operating budget.
“In a year in a half we’ll have done quite a few things to reduce” the 2014-15 deficit, Fairbairn said. “All else being equal, I would fully expect it to be smaller if all goes well. We might even not have a deficit by that point in a year and a half from now.”
The university’s operating budget funds salaries, pays for some maintenance and upkeep of facilities as well as for utilities and provides about $10 million for scholarships and bursaries. Some targeted funding is allocated for the accreditation of the College of Medicine, expansion of the nursing and medicine programs and library acquisitions.
The operating grant does not fund large capital projects.
For the second year in a row, the U of S has requested a two per cent increase to the provincial operating grant. The grant would ring in at $326.5 million — accounting for 68 per cent of total operating revenues — and would be the largest source of funding.
In the past, the university has asked for larger increases of about five per cent for the provincial operating grant, but following an unexpected increase of only two per cent for the 2012-13 grant and a look at what other provinces were receiving, the U of S dialed back to more modest requests.
“In the past we often projected what our costs would be going up at and requested that amount from the province. But a couple years ago we changed that because it became apparent when we looked across the country that that was unrealistic,” Fairbairn said, citing provinces like Alberta that recently cut back post-secondary funding by nearly $150 million.
Fairbairn said the university’s multi-year budgeting makes planning with the province’s year-to-year budgets difficult. However, the U of S does not create contingency plans in case funding requests are not met.
“I’ve stressed in the media and in talking with the government how important it is for us to have multi-year signals,” he said. “If we have multiple years to plan we can start changing our budget, but with one year it’s tough … it becomes a multi-year effort to bring our budget in balance.”
The currently over-budget forecast has revenue from tuition estimated to be $115.1 million. This revenue is based on an average undergraduate tuition increase of 4.7 per cent with steady enrolment. Tuition is the second-largest revenue source for the operating budget, accounting for 23 per cent.
Despite the cash saved through workforce planning — a reorganization of the university’s services to find efficiencies — salaries and benefits are the largest expenditures in the operating budget totalling 65 per cent of the $508.5 million budget.
Workforce planning was implemented from January to the end of July and eliminated 245 positions campus-wide, but also created some jobs in the process. This reorganization resulted in $8.5 million in savings from salaries and benefits for the 2014-15 budget, coming to a total of $10 million by the end of 2016.
Fairbairn said a large part of the savings from workforce planning came from the elimination of positions that had large salary increases in their near future.
Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor