University of New Brunswick administration plans to cut $4.7 million in funding over the next two years as part of its strategy for establishing a balanced budget by 2021.
The university outlined its budget planning goals at a bi-campus financial update for students and faculty, held at the Wu Conference Centre on Friday afternoon. While specific cuts were not indicated, officials said they hope to avoid layoffs.
Vice-president administration and finance Karen Cunningham said budget committees will provide input on how to make reductions in a way that causes the least disruption.
“All the decisions and recommendations on budget cuts are made consultatively and as transparently as we possibly can,” she said.
Rather than slashing budgets across the board, cuts will be specific to certain sections of the university. Budget teams will examine these sections and create detailed analyses and recommendations.
“It is a reality we have to face,” Cunningham said.
She said the 2019-20 and future budgets are based around the tuition reset last year, followed by two per cent annual increases.
UNB faced criticism from the students, faculty and staff last spring after large tuition hikes were announced in an effort to reach financial sustainability and reduce deficit. The Board of Governors voted to approve the increases in mid-May despite the Senate’s recommendation that the decision be delayed until mid-October. Increases are set to take effect in the fall of 2019 and will only apply to incoming students.
Provincial funding instability and unpredictable enrolment increases were cited as budget challenges, along with labour cost increases and the need to finance deferred maintenance.
Cunningham said the university had a clean audit opinion for the previous fiscal year, which ended with an operating deficit of $1.9 million - slightly better than expected. Early projections for 2018-19 show the budget and fall enrolment is on target.
Brad Ackerson contributed reporting
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated that last year's tuition hikes aimed to reduce debt. Those increases are designed to reduce deficit. The final paragraph has also been corrected to clarify that UNB is on target for its budget this year, but will not be deficit-free.