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SFU facing escalating budget deficits

October 22, 2009

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A $6.4-million recurring grant from the provincial government has reduced what would otherwise have been an almost $16-million SFU operating budget deficit for the upcoming 2010–11 fiscal year, says VP-finance and administration Pat Hibbitts.

But SFU is still looking at a $9-million shortfall next year. And with no new funding, recession-induced investment revenue losses, a five-per-cent non-salary inflation rate and a continuing two-per-cent mandatory tuition cap, the deficit is projected to swell to $20 million in 2011–12 and $32 million in 2012–13.

Hibbitts and VP-academic Jon Driver outlined the university’s sobering fiscal situation Sept. 29 during the first of a series of community budget consultations to find ways of addressing the deficit while maintaining student accessibility and educational quality.

The university’s projected $410-million operating budget for the next fiscal year goes to the board of governors for review in March 2010.

Since 2000–01, B.C.’s post-secondary institutions have enjoyed continuous growth and "a level of support from the provincial government that has not been matched in many other areas," Driver said in his introductory remarks.

"But that is coming to an end. We’re going to have to make do with the grants that we get from the provincial government to cover the current student enrolments and with the tuition fees that we get from students."

The university has balanced recent budgets, as required by law, by dipping into its operating reserves. But with those reserves increasingly used up in recent years, especially since the economic meltdown, Hibbitts says, "that particular well is dry."

Last year’s budget included a 2.5-per-cent cut in expenses across all vice-presidential portfolios, but this year the administration is considering differentiated cuts ranging from three to five per-cent at the portfolio level.

The larger cuts will mostly be to non-teaching and non-research services in both academic and non-academic units, but Hibbitts says all units of the university will be affected.

To view webcasts of the Sept. 29 and Oct. 20 consultations visit www.lidc.sfu.ca/archive.

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