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U of C's largest cutbacks affect staff, faculty

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The University of Calgary has been implementing budget cuts across campus to cope with reduced government funding and many faculties have been hit, directly impacting students. This has led to students questioning how the university has been handling its finances. Jake Gebert, Vice President of Finance for the University of Calgary, helped the Gauntlet break the numbers down and take a closer look at the budget.

Salaries are the largest expense at the university, accounting for 59 per cent of total expenditures in 2008/2009. Public U of C financial statements also show that salaries went up by over $32 million last year, a seven per cent increase, not including benefits. This increase consists of two components, said Gebert: wage increases and department growth.

Gebert said the U of C had negotiated two collective salary agreements: one with the University of Calgary Faculty Association and one with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. He said these salaries were negotiated before the university received signs of a recession or reduced government income. Both of these agreements expire in the current year and will be up for renegotiation.

The government has a program called the Enrolment Planning Envelope, which allocates specific funds to the university with the intention of expanding certain programs and faculties. Gebert explained that the new veterinary school is a result of EPE funding.

"We went back with budgets and said, 'To [start a veterinary school] we need X number of academics and so many administrative staff,' and [the government] funded us for that," said Gebert.

"A lot of those programs are based on . . . the government's desire to grow with certain areas that they believe are strategically important," he elaborated. "The government does try to . . . do some work-force planning for the future and educate the population to be able to enter into the work force when they need engineers or doctors."

Gebert said that even if the budget decreases over the next year there may still be growth within the university because of these EPE commitments.

Since 2006/2007 the university has gone from 4,062 to 4,831 employees, Gebert explained. However, he does say that this number will plateau or potentially face reduction in the future due to recent budget cuts.

The university began to tighten its belt with the IS2 Project. IS2 is not related to faculty cutbacks, but falls mainly within central administration which includes human resources, IT, supplied chain management and finance. These reductions took place in October when the university eliminated 140 administrative staff positions.

Gebert said the university started getting signals from the government in the summer about a zero per cent grant increase, which prompted a three per cent cut across the board, including faculty and administration.

"We knew that we had fixed costs because we were under collective agreements," Gebert explained. "We knew that our salary costs were going to grow; we couldn't control the cost component of it. We could only control the number of salaries we were paying. So that was in the reduction of some of the employees in the institution."

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