Budget discussion forums consider priorities, pressures

- January 19, 2018

BAC chair Carolyn Watters presenting background on the Dal budget. (Staff photos)
BAC chair Carolyn Watters presenting background on the Dal budget. (Staff photos)

Faculty, staff and students came together in person and online Monday for the first of two discussion forums this week on the university’s upcoming operating budget.

The forum, held in the Goldberg Computer Science Building and livestreamed online to the Agricultural Campus and at dal.ca/budget, gave members of the Dal community another opportunity to provide input into the setting of priorities for Dal’s operating budget, which funds the day-to-day operations of the university.

“In terms of setting priorities, it is important that we hear from as many people in the community as we can,” said Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) Chair and Dal Provost Carolyn Watters during introductory remarks at the town-hall style event.

Learn more: dal.ca/budget

The forums follow a university-wide survey, distributed in December, seeking input on budget priorities. While the results of that survey are still being analyzed, the university received more than 1,500 submissions — even more than the previous year — to help inform the Budget Advisory Committee’s initial recommendations due later this term.

The Committee, which makes budget recommendations to the president, also released a report in late December titled, Balancing Dalhousie’s Operating Budget [PDF], highlighting background issues/factors that influence the development of the budget.

Budget priorities in perspective

The forum began with Dr. Watters presenting an overview of how the budget works and some of the parameters around which the university has to work when setting its priorities.

She explained how the budget is created with the aim of advancing the university’s academic mission and pursuing its strategic priorities, but that doing so while finding a way to balance the budget can be a challenge. That’s because the cost of running the university increases by 3-4 per cent each year, while base revenues typically rise at a much slower pace of 1-2 percent a year.

That leaves the university with budget pressures which she said can be addressed by reallocating resources, by mandating budget cuts in faculties and units, and by increasing revenues through other means like new programs and tuition increases, all of which have been undertaken over the past years.

Later in the session, attendees broke off into groups to share ideas on priorities and how to make them work within tight budgetary constraints before reconvening for a facilitated discussion led by Anne-Marie Ryan, university teaching fellow in Earth Sciences.

Some of the feedback offered ranged from the need to improve research support in certain departments and the accessibility of existing infrastructure, to the need for more supports for international students, graduate students, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and more.

Following Thursday’s similar forum, Dr. Watters and others members of the BAC will consider input gathered from both forums and the survey as it puts together its draft 2018-2019 budget recommendations for release and discussion in early February. Further comments or input can be submitted at any time by email to BAC@dal.ca

For more on the Dalhousie budget, visit dal.ca/budget.


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