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Outgoing president Gary Kachanoski says questions about the tuition freeze could come up again
Memorial University is facing another potential cut to its funding from the provincial government.
On Tuesday, MUN president Gary Kachanoski outlined the proposal received from the provincial government to a meeting of MUN’s senate.
While the government had initially proposed a $5.4-million cut over two years, Kachanoski says there were questions whether the government used correct budget figures in its calculation. After a review, a $2.8-million cut over two years is now before the government. The reduction is ear-marked for further attrition at the university.
Kachanoski says with yet another budget cut, another round of questions about the tuition freeze could come up again.
“It means we’re downsizing people. We’ve had attrition programs going, we’ve had layoffs prior to that, but we’re really talking now about reducing people in core areas with the current year’s budget reduction,” Kachanoski said.
"We’ve had attrition programs going, we’ve had layoffs prior to that, but we’re really talking now about reducing people in core areas with the current year’s budget reduction." — Gary Kachanoski
“Certainly, discussions we’ve had with the board of regents and with government, if those are substantive, new reductions that we have to find, then we have to look at a revenue source to do it, which then obviously would bring a tuition question to the table.”
The cut is specifically for attrition, to be spread around various departments at MUN.
While the current proposal is small compared to MUN’s overall expenditure of $383 million in 2019-20, in the last five years MUN has seen repeated cuts to the operating grant received from the provincial government.
From 2015-16 to 2018-19, MUN’s operating grant from the government has been cut by $38 million.
In addition to reducing the workforce at MUN through attrition and layoffs over that time, infrastructure remains a large concern at the university.
“We’re still grappling with the whole deferred maintenance question,” Kachanoski said.
“That itself has a gap between what we should be spending every year, versus what we are, and that gap is around $16 million a year – and that’s unaddressed, let alone the new reductions.”
Kachanoski says in total, the amount of maintenance that has been deferred by MUN is between $450 million and $500 million.
"We are trying to find our own solutions.” — Kachanoski
The university is currently spending $7.5 million on infrastructure repairs, but would have to spend $24 million annually to keep infrastructure as it is. In order to fully repair infrastructure issues at the university, the number grows to $45 million annually, he said.
That said, Kachanoski says the university is not “sitting passively by” on infrastructure.
“We’ve reduced our own budget, on top of the other budget reductions. We internally reduced our own budget again in order to fund the mortgage for the new science building, knowing we had to replace the science infrastructure,” he said.
“That’s replacing a lot of the old science building’s infrastructure. Then when we did the Signal Hill campus and moved units from campus to Signal Hill, that freed up some space, which allowed that along with people moving out of the Chemistry-Physics building and some of those other buildings, as they move into the new science building, it will allow us to fully empty the old science building and tear it down. It doesn’t make sense to repair it, in this state. That will save us operating dollars and we’re hoping those operating dollars can then be used to go get money to upgrade a bunch of other buildings. We are trying to find our own solutions.”
Kachanoski says discussions with the government will remain ongoing until budget day.
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