Concordia to receive $13 million less from the government in 2014-2015
Just a few weeks ago, Concordia received word from the government concerning just how much less they would be receiving this year: $13 million for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
They also learnt that it would no longer be possible for the school to have a deficit this year. Since Concordia had one of $2.7 million – which was carried from last year’s compressions – this meant that the total amount that would need to be cut from this year’s budget would add up to $15.7 million.
Total compressions between 2013-2015 will therefore amount to a total of $29 million.
Coming up with a plan of action was quite a challenge for the school, especially since they found out they would need to make major cuts for a fiscal year that began last May.
“That’s the tricky part. It’s hard to change the tires of the car while you’re driving on the highway,” said Concordia President Dr. Alan Shepard.
In order to comply with the government’s new rules, Concordia announced a Voluntary Departure Program (VDP) on Wednesday Sept. 24, and hope that 180 administrative, support, and professional staff members will choose to opt for the package. Staff accepted into the program will begin leaving Concordia on Nov. 30.
“It’s important to me that we not move into the world of involuntary layoffs. I can’t imagine anything worse than coming into work and finding out that the job you love and the place that you’re loyal to has just laid you off,” Shepard said. “I know that happens in the private sector but it’s not something I am eager to do, so we worked really hard for the last several weeks trying to devise a program that would give opportunities to people who were prepared to take a package to leave Concordia.”
Members of staff who have worked a minimum of 10 years of service are eligible to take the package, including both full-time and part-time employees. It is important to note that this only includes administrative staff, and not professors.
Employees who have worked over 10 years at Concordia would receive a severance package equal to 12 months of pay, while those who have been at the university for over 15 years would receive 18 months worth of salary. There are currently 900 staff members who are eligible for the package.
This program would allow the school to save up to $5 million this fiscal year, and $12 million per year starting in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, permanent and temporary administration and support staff accounted for 2,113 positions at Concordia. Reducing the staff by 180 would represent a reduction of about 8.5 per cent. These 180 positions represent 2 per cent of Concordia’s salary expenses.
“I don’t think that you can make 180 reductions and positions and pretend that it’s just like it was yesterday, because that’s not true,” Shepard said. “At the same time, what we’re going to do is that we planned for 180 departures, and we know that some number of those, maybe 20, 25, 30 we’re not sure, will be in positions that are critical, you can’t do without that so we’ll have to rehire those roles, and when you make a voluntary program you can’t pick. I can’t say ‘I want you to depart, you can’t depart,’ so what we’re going to do is we are going to invite people who are eligible under the terms of the program to make a decision. Once we know their decisions, we’ll see what rebalancing needs to be done.”
Another 3 per cent will be cut in operating expenses. For example, Concordia will put off replacing some computers in offices, which will save $1 million. Concordia’s Vice Presidents are still hard at work, trying to find just where they can spare some money.
Concordia has also reduced the Chief Financial Officer’s reserve—which is an amount built into the budget for the unexpected which usually represents one per cent of the budget—by $1 million.
Other public institutions have used similar programs, and they have been quite popular within the staff. McGill, for example, used a voluntary departure program last year when they had to cut $43 million, according to Doug Sweet, director of Internal Communications at McGill. In this instance, 250 employees opted to take the package.
“You have a year’s pay, so you have the time to look around for something else. It depends on your personal circumstances, maybe you have kids at home, or you have a second career, maybe you want to go back to school, there’s as many circumstances as their are people.”
Paul Eifert, an IT technician for IITS who is eligible to take the package, agrees.
“Personally, I think that a lot of people here will take a buyout and maybe retire a little earlier,” he said.
Eifert explained that many would also consider taking the severance and seeking employment elsewhere, or maybe even use the time to travel.
A maximum of 180 employees will be able to take the package. It is a one-time deal, and will not be offered again in the next few years.
Concordia took special care in deciding where to make cuts in order to make sure that the student experience and quality of education would not be affected.
Concordia’s budget compressions are a part a total of $172 million reclaimed from universities in the province for this year, according to Le Soleil.
“I think that what the message is that no matter which government is in power, there are constraints on all our resources, and we are trying in the most respectful way we can to respond to the restraints that were given,” Shepard said. “And we’ve experienced it under both governments actually. It’s not about the government of the day, it’s about the economic reality were in.”