One year after the University of Saskatchewan announced a looming deficit of $44.5 million for 2016, a total of $15.5 million has been trimmed from the shortfall.
The 2012-13 budget was expected to dip $15.5 million into the red if no action was taken. Since that budget was released in March 2012, provost and vice-president academic, Brett Fairbairn, and vice-president finance and resources, Greg Fowler, have teamed with a steering committee and working groups to achieve a balanced budget once again.
“Our goal in budget adjustment is to ensure by 2016 that we have continued financial sustainability in a changing post secondary environment,” Fairbairn said.
The budget steering committee and working groups have developed a plan to address the required changes and to find funding for the transition. All areas of the university that could be used to save money are considered.
The university cut down the 2012-13 deficit to $6 million by immediately deferring the massive campus renovations of RenewUS to 2014. They also cut $2.5 million from salary and benefit investments and from the Health Sciences D-wing operating costs.
Funds from the university operating reserve made financing available to keep the university operating budget balanced as changes are being carried out to 2016.
Two-thirds of the transition funding is set aside for intermediary support for the workforce planning program, while the remaining third will be used for university renovations and technology.
Seven programs have been created to organize the current and future work on budget adjustment, three of which are program prioritization through TransformUS, workforce planning and enhancement of the value of university spending.
In Sept. 2012, the steering committee announced 10 guiding principles — including transparency, accountability and sustainability for the budget adjustment. Fowler met with various colleges, departments and services across campus to review and discuss the reallocation of the accumulated contingency balances.
The steering community and working groups decided in Nov. 2012 to suspend operations at the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus from 2012-16 in order to avoid spending more than $3 million on capital improvements.
Announced in Jan. 2013, TransformUS targets a $20-25 million reduction in the operating budget and will reallocate $5 million to the university’s top priorities. These priorities include knowledge creation, culture and community, Aboriginal engagement and innovation in academic programs and service. It will be subject the recommendations set out by TransformUS.
At a financial town hall meeting on June 13, Fairbairn said that the university will not consider across the board cuts, hiring freezes or tuition increases to balance the budget.
The 2012-13 budget now has a small surplus of 0.05 per cent. The surplus is primarily a result of one-time savings such as a $3 million increase in tuition revenue from enrolment increases and another $3 million were saved by lowering spending and increased investment income.
The 2013-14 operating budget expenses are targeted to be $471 million with a deficit of $3.3 million if no action is taken.
Fairbairn and Fowler asserted their confidence at the June town hall meeting that the university will succeed in alleviating the $44.5 million deficit.
“By 2016 we will be sustainable in terms of all of our resources, financial and otherwise,” Fairbairn said.