January 8, 1999 Volume 6, Number 8

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Operations Forecast for 1999-2000 requests extra millions to help regain lost capacity

Vice-presidents Michael Atkinson and Tony Whitworth collaborated to produce this year's Operations Forecast, which sets forth the University's operating and capital needs to government. Putting the case, in respectful but desperate tones, "that a great University is deteriorating because of budget restraints."

The University's 1998 Operations Forecast - a presentation of its 1999-2000 operating and capital needs to government - is in the hands of the Department of Post-Secondary Education.

The document - the result of a collaborative effort among Vice-presidents Michael Atkinson and Tony Whitworth, the Deans' Council, the Administrative Council, and Council committees - calls for an operating budget of almost $190 million, a capital budget of $50 million, and a revitalization (special initiatives) budget of $5 million.

Currently, the University is operating on about $180 million a year. For 1998-99, the University received a capital grant of $14.4 million, almost doubling the previous year's funding, and a revitalization grant of $3 million.

The Operating Budget

Respectfully reminding the government that $1 million spent on the operating grant to the University generates a $4.25 million return to the province's economy while noting that the U of S "has lost substantial ground over the past 10 years," the 37-page Operations Forecast prioritizes the University's complex of needs and aspirations into three "tiers."

Taken together, the tiers amount to an extra $9 million in the operating budget.

  • The Tier 1 budget, requesting an extra $5.25 million, represents, the document says, "a 'stand pat' - or, less charitably, a 'do nothing'budget - " that anticipates some increases in key areas, especially staff and faculty salaries. "But because [this budget] does not request funds for all areas of urgent need...the University would still be losing ground with this level of funding."

  • The Tier 2 budget, requesting an additional $1.625 million beyond the Tier 1 budget, "presents immediate needs to ensure the process of academic renewal." Expecting to lose as many as 200 faculty over the next 10 years to retirements, the University regards the recruitment of new faculty as "critical" in the academic renewal process.

    Especially with various "perceived disadvantages" of moving to Saskatchewan - e.g., transportation access, geographic isolation, higher taxes" - it is important," the document states, "that salary levels and lack of start-up grants not contribute to the difficulties in attracting and retaining new faculty."

  • The Tier 3 budget projections, involving a further $2.1 million beyond the Tier 2 budget, would further enable the University "to begin to address some of the needs and opportunities to take the University beyond the status quo." The document itemizes and costs out the need for graduate student research assistants, learning technologies, information systems, and the replacement of major computer systems and upgrading of computer infrastructure.

The Capital Budget

The $50-million capital budget would include $25 million for replacement and renewal of infrastructure and equipment, $24 million for the major building projects (the Thorvaldson, Kinesiology, and College Buildings), and $1 million for a Campus Master Plan.

The Renewal and Replacement Projects section of the document calls for "enhanced sustaining capital funding [$19.2 million in total]...to maintain the $1.1-billion investment in buildings and grounds" and notes that the recent DesRosiers Report suggests such funding be 1.3% of plant value - i.e., more than $14 million annually.

Perpetual crisis mode

Lack of sufficient renewal funding "creates a perpetual crisis mode of operation" for the Facilities Management staff.

Some examples:

  • Aging steam tunnels, if not replaced (at $2 million a year over the next decade), may collapse.

  • "When, not if" boilers, many beyond their useful life, collapse, "many parts of the campus will be shut down." Replacement cost: $2.5 million.

  • If the Preston Avenue sub-station is not expanded - cost: $3 million - to accommodate growth, power supply to parts of the campus will be compromised.

Other items requested in the capital budget section of the document include:

  • $500,000 for start-up grants for new faculty;

  • $1 million to upgrade audio-visual/computer equipment and 18 lecture theatres for teaching;

  • $1.3 million "to begin to address the backlog of equipment needs and to recognize current requirements";

  • $1.5 million to replace desktop computers and research equipment to ensure Y2000 compliance; and

  • $750,000 to replace application servers, and an additional $750,000 "for upgraded servers able to run more complex systems that address Y2000 problems and recognize current business requirements."

Revitalization Budget

The $1-million revitalization request presents two proposals: one, requesting that the revitalization budget be maintained at $3 million, as in the last two years, and that collaborative proposals between the two Universities be given priority; the other, suggesting the establishment of a matching fund for enhancing research and for financial aid for students.

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