Volume 12, Number 18 May 13, 2005

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$281m budget for 2005-06 'stays the course'

President Peter MacKinnon says the U of S is “staying the course” in its three-year plan to overcome a structural deficit, increase student financial assistance, and launch a number of new academic and research initiatives.

MacKinnon told a news conference May 6 that earlier in the day the Board of Governors approved a $281-million operating budget for 2005-06, up $12 million from last year.

This year’s budget is marked by the provincial government’s provision of a basic two-per-cent operating grant increase and a special Centennial Tuition Grant to the U of S to offset an increase in tuition levels. The University agreed not to raise its tuitions this year.

The province will provide a total operating grant of $172 million to the University, with a combined operating and tuition grant increase of $6.3 million. It also granted an additional $3.9 million to help with College of Medicine accreditation issues, and $1.2 million for other targeted programs including Medicine, Nursing and graduate student scholarships. The budget also includes $81 million in tuition revenue.

The provincial operating grant accounts for approximately 60 per cent of the University’s total operating revenue and tuition accounts for approximately 30 per cent.

MacKinnon said 2005-06 marks the second year in a multi-year budget framework for 2004-07 passed by the Board a year ago. The framework included projected yearly increases in provincial funding and tuition levels and a combination of one-time and permanent budget adjustments to colleges and administrative units in an effort to, by 2006-07, reverse an annual structural deficit estimated at just over $6 million.

“I’m confident we’re on the right track,” he told reporters.

In the 2004-05 year just ended, the U of S introduced its first round of one-time and permanent budget adjustments – a total of $4.3 million from a number of departments and units – but it still planned for a $2.4-million deficit.

The 2005-06 budget estimates that the University will receive a total of $281 million in revenue and without additional adjustments would spend $285 million, resulting in an approximate $4-million deficit.

As a result, in line with the multi-year framework, the Board approved the administration’s proposal of just under $4.3 million in extra belt-tightening, the same amount as in the previous year.

The result is a balanced budget for 2005-06.

The adjustments this year include:

  • A total of nearly $1.2 million in permanent measures. The colleges and units affected include Agriculture, Commerce, Pharmacy & Nutrition, Extension Division and Facilities Management Division.
  • Permanent one-half per cent levies on the budgets of the remaining colleges and administrative units, cutting annual costs by $732,000.
  • Nearly $2.4 million in one-time measures including a close review of unspent balances in accounts.

The combination of increased revenue and cuts this year allows the University to continue to move forward on initiatives proposed in the 2003-07 Integrated Plan which was endorsed by University Council and approved by the Board of Governors in spring 2004.

The plan calls for money to be set aside in an Academic Priorities Fund, to be used for institutional priorities led this year by $500,000 a permanent increase to graduate student scholarships.

The biggest expenditure the University makes by far is for salaries and benefits – planned at $215.2 million for 2005-06, up $4.4 million, or 2.1 per cent, over 2004-05. Next are $51.2 million for major operating costs, $12.1 million for purchased utilities, and $9.9 million for scholarships and bursaries. The budget also includes new funding of $296,000 for increased student recruitment and retention activities, to help meet targets set out in the U of S Enrolment Plan.

U of S Students’ Union President Gavin Gardiner told reporters that while this year’s tuition freeze is good news for students, he fears the University will try to catch up in its national-norm tuition policy with a larger hike in fees next year.

However, a “dampening effect” of government intervention in the setting of tuitions in many provinces means the U of S is now projecting that undergraduate tuitions may only have to rise an average of four per cent in 2006-07 to reach the level at comparable universities across Canada.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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