Vancouver Island University balances budget

Increased tuition, layoffs, more revenue and decreased spending in all departments will balance Vancouver Island University's books this year.

Increased tuition, layoffs, more revenue and decreased spending in all departments will balance Vancouver Island University’s books.

The institution’s board of governors finalized next year’s $126-million budget Thursday.

Toni O’Keeffe, VIU spokeswoman, said the institution reported a $5.2-million shortfall, but the actual shortfall is about $3.36 million, as the strike happened across two fiscal years and losses had to be carried from one year to the other, while savings from the strike were all reported in the new fiscal year.

“It is really misleading, however we have to put it there,” she said.

About $2.3 million in savings was found through small reductions in every department, either through a reduction in supplies, travel or jobs.

O’Keeffe said that includes a loss of 13 full-time positions – seven faculty, four support staff and two administrators – but more than half were already reassigned to another position or retired this year.

There are also some course reductions, such as a second-year physics course and four sections of physiology anatomy – the courses will still be offered, there will just be fewer of them – and some program reductions – for example, the two-year green building and renewable energy program will not be offered, said O’Keeffe.

Departments took money out of the budget wherever possible.

“It’s just all little bits and pieces,” O’Keeffe said.

The rest of the shortfall is mitigated by more than $800,000 in increased revenue from the international student program, contracts, various operations and a two-per cent tuition increase, as well as about $230,000 in savings by decreasing the capital equipment replacement budget.

O’Keeffe said VIU saved about $5.15 million in grants that were rolled over to the following fiscal year and wages not paid during the month-long strike, but the strike also cost the institution an estimated $2.87 million in tuition refunds and lost revenue.

The net $2.3-million savings from the strike balances the strike deficit rolled over from last fiscal year.

O’Keeffe said so far, the university has a balanced budget, but if losses from the strike are higher than budget estimates, the province might have to step in to help.

Steve Beasley, VIU Students’ Union executive director, said the budget will mean more hardships for students.

“This year’s budget includes higher tuition fees, which means that less students will be able to afford to go to school,” he said. “The students’ union continues to be disappointed with the lack of funding provided by the B.C. government.”