King's facing substantial cuts

Market, enrolment decline and problems with pensions taking toll on university

The Arts and Administration building at the University of King's College that houses both the President's and Bursar's offices. Photo: Sydnee Bryant

The University of King's College is facing the worst deficit in its history. Over the last several weeks, projections for the university's deficit for 2009-10 have jumped to $1.1 million from $500,000.

The college has run deficits in seven of the past 11 years, but that number has reached an all-time high. The deficit in 2007-08 was $158,168. Like many Nova Scotia universities King's has experienced reduced enrolment and a decrease in endowments. Stock market decline and lackluster performance have greatly affected its pension plan, and the university is feeling the pinch in increased academic salaries as a result of recent appointments and promotions.

"This is the biggest deficit we have ever encountered," says the university's bursar, Gerry Smith.

"It came because of market conditions, external factors off campus. If there is no market recovery, if the markets do not return to normal, there will be no King's."

Proposed Budget cuts in percentages for 2009/10:

Library: 23.9% - reductions in salary, archivist funding, books funding and other expenditures

Athletics: 17.4%- including salary reductions and reducing the number of sports teams, specifically badminton and volleyball

Academics: 1.5% - reduced director's honorariums, reduced program's discretionary spending, reduced provisions for TA's, reduced research grants and journalism school savings

Scholarships, Awards and Bursaries: 8.3%

Facilities Maintenance: 5.9% - reduced salaries

General College Maintenance: 16.5% - reduction of cleaning service to individual offices and reduction of after hours staffing.

Advancement office: 16.2% - reduced salaries and other expenditures

Registrars Office: 9.4% - reduced salaries and other expenditures

Divinity (The chapel): 9.3%

Click here for the original document provided by the bursar. Numbers are approximate and subject to change.


University President Bill Barker says it is not simply market factors that are confronting King's.

"What's really bothering us is that the college can only handle one or two things at a time," explains Barker. "We can handle a bad Dalhousie bill (for shared services), or the government cuts us back a little bit, or a pension is not working well, or the endowment goes into a bit of a decline, or we have 20 beds empty in residence, or our student numbers drop, or our course numbers drop. Now we are getting lots of them. We can't do four or five."

Questions about reporting

As the budget deficit projections continue to climb the university community is questioning how the situation got so bad.

Kelly Toughill, an assistant professor in the school of journalism, has been a member of the university's budget committee, an advisory committee to the president, for two years.

According to draft minutes of a faculty meeting in mid December, she told faculty the university was looking for cuts of $250,000 for 2009-10. However, she said the committee didn't have accurate revenue and expense figures to judge the financial state of the college. For example, she said the committee didn't even have total salary costs in every department and added that budget estimates this year were "relentlessly optimistic."

She said one set of revenue and expense figures were different from figures made available a mere seven days earlier. In a budget report sent out to faculty from President Barker on Feb. 7, the estimated deficit for 2009-10 was $500,000. In the past week, that number has more than doubled and the current estimate is a projected deficit of around $1.1 million.

Toughill said she felt uncomfortable dealing with ballpark numbers when trying to draw up a budget for 2009-10 and suggesting cuts without precise numbers is "nuts."

The bursar, however, says financial reporting is not the cause of the university's problems.

"This is the biggest deficit we have ever encountered. And it didn't come because we didn't do monthly statements, quarterly statements." Smith said.

Smith says the budget committee is missing the big picture.

"I have a real problem with faculty members on the budget committee, because they just simply don't understand," Smith says. "They spend more time talking about why we didn't have 12 monthly cash flow statements. They focus on a $30,000 problem and the big money is walking out the door. They (the budget committee) think we are nuts because of our system. I think they are nuts because they cannot think big."

The bursar said the budget committee should discuss the future of faculty positions in programs, which are having difficulty attracting students.

Proposed cuts

In light of these disagreements, President Barker has drafted a plan which outlines a series of cuts to deal with the present deficit.

"The areas we are looking at are administrative offices, athletics, any of the sort of secondary things, it spreads around," says Barker. "Just about everything we could find."

The executive of the board of governors has already issued an immediate freeze on discretionary spending and hiring for the remainder of the current year and has suggested it may continue. Meanwhile the administration's budget proposal to the board of governors includes extensive cuts to: scholarships, funding for the library, the chapel, general maintenance staff, after-hours staffing, the advancement office and athletics, including the elimination of both the volleyball and badminton teams.

Barker worries extensive cuts will "erode the foundations" of what King's truly is. He stated his goal was first and foremost to maintain core academic programs and student-related activities.

"Unfortunately with the deficit, you can only cut so many times before you cut yourself into non-existence," says Barker. "You stop doing the things you were meant to do because you have cut so much that you cannot do those things anymore."




Comments on this story are now closed

Hey--could you post President Barker's plan as a PDF--if it's already been drafted? That's the sense i get from the article. As well, I'm president of the graduation committee...we get funding from the KSU and from the Alumni Association...makes me wonder if we fall under "discretionary spending"--this could be the case. Not good.

Posted by Steph T. | Feb 16, 2022