Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Budget Town Hall: A look at the books

  Posted on: January 11, 2017

Budget Town Hall, Jan. 10

About 150 people attended the Budget Town Hall on Jan. 10.

About 150 faculty, staff and management gathered yesterday to hear a presentation from administrators on budgetary challenges and opportunities faced by the university. 100 people were in attendance in the Mountain Room on the main TRU campus in Kamloops, while about 50 people tuned in via livestream, including 12 people from the Williams Lake campus.

“We are focusing on the development of the proposed budget for the 17/18 fiscal year before it is presented to Senate and the Board of Governors,” said Christine Bovis-Cnossen, Provost and Vice-President Academic, who hosted the event alongside Vice-President Administration and Finance Matt Milovick.

The Budget Town Hall is the second such event under the Open Governance initiative (the first Town Hall was held in September 2016) designed to increase the transparency of the university’s operations by creating a forum to openly share information and foster engagement with the university community.

“The purpose of this is to open up issues and processes on the governance of the university,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Alan Shaver, who kicked off the event with an introduction and some overall context.

New for this Town Hall, the audience was polled in order to get a sense of what employees think about certain topics; for example where budgetary dollars come from (answer: 46% provincial grants followed by 44% tuition fees) and what the university’s largest expense is (answer: 76% goes to compensation and benefits).

Bovis-Cnossen and Milovick presented slides covering several areas of the budget structure as well as comparisons showing how TRU measures up against other BC universities. Of key concern to the university administration is the relative lack of funding from the provincial government—TRU ranks 11/12 in BC in terms of operating grant dollars received per FTE (full-time equivalent).

Combined with the fact that on-campus enrolment is declining (down 3% from last year), and taking into consideration all other revenue and expense assumptions, Milovick shared the “scary part” of his presentation: a projected $1.7 million deficit (which is not tolerated by AVED) by the 2019/20 year.

Meanwhile, the VP Administration and Finance was pleasantly surprised when comparing distribution of operating expenditures with institutions across the country. While the lion’s share of TRU’s expenditures goes toward academic endeavors, he commented on the “impressive output” from areas where the least amount of money is spent: external relations, physical buildings and IT (for example he noted new security initiatives launched by IT Services).

Following the presentation, Bovis-Cnossen and Milovick welcomed a few questions from the audience. Overall, they are pleased with the turnout and the engagement. “These dialogues serve to augment the feedback received from the Budget Committee of Senate and Senate on the proposed budget, this town hall is an important part of the process,” Bovis-Cnossen said.

Milovick agreed, saying that “actual forecasts and comparisons aside, it’s having the opportunity to share the information and create awareness within the broader university community that is precisely the intent of the Town Hall.”

In the coming years, the administration will carry on with its focus on strategic enrolment planning and retention efforts whilst lobbying for grants that reflect the university’s modern operations. “We need to keep the pressure on government to move past outdated funding allocations. It’s an issue,” Milovick lamented.

Notes taken from the Town Hall will be available here and will be shared with the Board, Senate, Planning Council of Open Learning, the TRUSU Board of Directors and all Faculty Councils. The President invites further questions and comments to president@tru.ca.

     

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