Virtual Budget Town Hall – Summary
Yesterday, l shared an online presentation and update with the university community on our budget, COVID-19 impacts and on our future planning. We had over 750 people join online. Thank you to those who were able to watch and interact with us. Below is a summary of my presentation.
Addressing the COVID-19 Situation
- Inventory of our supplies and equipment—including masks, gloves and hospital beds—has been taken, and we are ready to share when necessary.
- We continue with health measures on our campuses to protect staff and students and continue to support students through online delivery.
- The entire Spring/Summer Term has now moved to online delivery and enrolment for Spring/Summer is going very well.
- Where the method of delivery changed for Winter Term, it is expected that 50,000 grades across approximately 2,000 sections will be assigned. Only 138 of these were originally delivered online.
- The teams from Information and Technology Services and e-Learning have provided excellent support to instructors as well as to students adjusting to the changed learning environment.
- Last week, we launched a COVID-19 Relief Bursary. This short-term bursary will provide assistance to MacEwan students directly impacted by the pandemic. This is an important initiative for our university, building on our history and commitment to students.
- The shift to an outcome-based funding model is outlined in the Investment Management Agreement (IMA) that the Board of Governors must enter into with the Minister of Advanced Education, effective May 2020.
- The IMA includes an expenditure reduction target the university must meet for the 2020/21 budget. This is a new budget planning and approval requirement. Institutions have been provided with explicit revenue and expenditure targets based on Budget 2020, and budgets will not be accepted if they contain expenditures exceeding the targets provided.
- The provincial budget was passed in February, and while our grants for mental health and students with disabilities were maintained, and our infrastructure maintenance grant was restored, our Campus Alberta Grant (CAG) was reduced by 2.2 per cent, bringing our total reduction to 10.1 per cent.
- The combination of CAG reductions and the 2020/21 expenditure reduction targets means a total spending reduction of close to $27 million for 2020/21, and over the next three years, the total expenditure reduction target to meet over three years is close to $36 million. Additional new reductions for 2020/21 and the subsequent two years must now be found to address the expenditure reduction target.
- To date, $19.2 million in expense reductions have been found which includes the 126 full time non-faculty positions that have been eliminated. It should be noted that of the $3.5 million in non-salary reductions, $1.8 million came from Academic Affairs.
- An important element to note is that the university will have a deficit for 2019/20. We must remain conservative in our spending for the remainder of this fiscal year and ask that you do not spend on items considered non-essential. A plan to cover this deficit will also be presented to the Board in May.
- The Board will vote to approve the budget at the May meeting for 2020/21 and accept the 2021/22 and 2022/23 plans for information.
- The government has been clear that we are not allowed to impact in any significant way student or academic programming in implementing budget reduction plans.
- Out of scope staff have been impacted by the layoffs in January and on April 15 along with MSA staff. We have examined, and will continue to look at, all areas to identify efficiencies in both salary and non-salary reductions.
- On April 9, our budget plan was shared with the Board which supported our recommendations to move forward with further reductions in order to meet the expenditure reduction target given to MacEwan by the government.
- This means there will be additional permanent reductions prior to the end of June.
- Unfortunately, due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on our budget, additional employees will also be required to take temporary leaves without pay in May and June.
Academic Impacts and Program Review
- The Government is moving forward to conduct a post-secondary education system review and develop Alberta 2030: Transforming Post-Secondary Education.
- It is inevitable that there will be changes to our academic programs as we continue to manage the university financial plan and to align with any potential changes stemming from the sector review.
- Although faculty instructional hours taught during the year are a negotiated matter in the Collective Agreement, Academic Affairs will continue to make adjustments to class sizes and number of sections offered to deliver programs as efficiently as possible.
- Program changes must be handled through academic governance and subject to the authority of the General Faculties Council, and depending on the change may be subject to government approval.
- An academic program review for MacEwan has been recommended to the Board and will be discussed with Dr. Trimbee in the months ahead.
Questions from Town Hall
- There were a number of questions asked during the virtual budget town hall. We are currently developing a summary of these questions and responses which will be shared with you within the next week.
- Some of these questions will need to be looked into further. We will get back to you soon with those answers.
I hope that I have been able to provide more clarity and explanation for you. I am committed to continuing to communicate transparently with you.
As I have said before, I know that MacEwan University is strong and resilient, and our tight-knit, student-focused commitment will guide us in shaping our future.