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Despite pandemic-era realities and a one per cent cut in provincial funding, Brandon University proposed a budget that will ensure staff don’t see pay decreases.
University president David Docherty sent a mid-afternoon email to staff Friday letting them know their wages were safe. In addition, staff will not be asked to take days off without pay.
"First of all, I want to thank the hard work of a lot of the leaders at BU who worked very hard to try to find savings that didn’t involve people," Docherty told The Brandon Sun.
"We’re a people-heavy organization, so finding savings that don’t involve people is difficult. But we’ve managed to."
The proposed budget now has to go through the budget advisory committee, after which it goes to the board finance committee. Finally, it reaches the university’s board of governors.
"We’re still working out some of the details," Docherty said. "There’s still some work to be done."
The province asked the university to run scenarios that included much larger cuts, the president said. But then the province came back and said the cut to its government grant would only be one per cent, which the university had actually anticipated.
That amount is $376,000; a shortfall that was found in travel budgets and not filling some vacant positions, among other efforts.
"If we had had a five, six or seven per cent cut, it would have been a very different story," Docherty said.
"I want to recognize the province for recognizing the important role BU and post-secondaries are going to play in rebuilding the economy."
Docherty said COVID-19 did strike hard financially.
"Students were leaving residence early. Our food services did not do as well as anticipated," he said, adding that these are all important sources of revenue.
Enrolment for the fall, despite the university going mostly online, looks good. Students continuing on to second, third and fourth year are registering at fairly high numbers, as compared to this time last year. First-year students are down a bit.
"But we only announced last week what our plans were. We’re anticipating that will rebound," Docherty said.
"We’re tracking our registrations and we’re comfortable that we’re going to be within the range we think we are in terms of enrolment."
International students are another matter.
"The federal government said that they can take courses from a distance and can use that toward their permanent residence once they graduate. That’s been very helpful. Our international applications are high," Docherty said.
Infrastructure projects planned by the university, such as the proposed downtown campus, are a separate financial issue for which he said the university is not setting aside any funds.
"We’re making progress on that, but I can’t really comment at the moment," Docherty said.
The university is not proposing the construction of any additional residences at this time, but that wouldn’t be a part of the budget either.
Docherty said staff members are working hard to make sure their courses are ready to go, so he’s especially happy to tell them they don’t have to make a financial sacrifice.
» Michele LeTourneau covers Indigenous matters for The Brandon Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.
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