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VP-finance and administration Pat Hibbitts says without new funds to offset non-salary inflation costs “we're going to have this problem year after year after

VP-finance and administration Pat Hibbitts says without new funds to offset non-salary inflation costs “we're going to have this problem year after year after year.”

Inflation erodes budget

March 8, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

The B.C. government's recent commitment to fund more graduate-student seats will take some of the sting out of what was originally projected to be an $8.8-million SFU budget deficit for the 2007-08 fiscal year, says VP-finance and administration, Pat Hibbitts.

"But with no ability to alter tuition beyond the consumer price index inflation rate and no money to offset non-salary inflation, now running at about five per cent annually, we're going to face this problem year after year after year.

"It cost us $4 million last year, $5 million this year and will probably cost us $6 million next year, just on non-salary inflation."

Lower than expected international student enrollment also contributed to the budget shortfall, she says, costing the university almost $3 million.

The university's projected $352-million operating budget, which goes to the SFU board of governors for review this month, is the result of months of campus-wide consultations to determine the best way to deal with the deficit while maintaining educational quality and student accessibility, says Hibbitts.

It includes a 2.5-per-cent cut in expenses across all vice-presidential portfolios, to balance the budget as required by law.

It also includes a proposed two-per-cent tuition increase—the provincially imposed maximum.

"We made commitments in the past when we had larger tuition increases to increase our scholarship, bursaries and awards budgets and there are no plans to decrease that," adds Hibbitts.

The budget allows for about 20 new faculty positions and staff increases across many departments, Hibbits says. SFU gets no funding for salary increases due to faculty progression through the range or step progression for staff. For the first time, however, the government has funded general faculty and staff wage increases.

The additional graduate-student funding will "give us an extra $2.3 million, compared to when we began the budget process in November," says Hibbitts. "But with additional graduates come additional expenses so it's not free money."

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