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Concordia finances finish year in deficit

by Michelle Gamage September 22, 2015
Concordia finances finish year in deficit

The SIS system, solar panels and budgets: the BoG in recap

Concordia ran a deficit last fiscal year, largely due to last semester’s Voluntary Departure Program in response to provincial austerity measures.

Photo by Michelle Gamage.

Photo by Michelle Gamage.

The 2014-2015 financial audit statements—which show the school spent more than it made—were one of the many topics discussed during the first Concordia Board of Directors meeting on Sept. 16. The statements reveal that Concordia is running a $31,857,000 deficit, compared to the 2013-2014 fiscal year which ended with a $13,645,000 surplus.

The Voluntary Departure Program was part of Concordia’s austerity plan to reduce staff and thereby reduce expenses last spring. It included offering a severance package to staff who volunteered to leave Concordia’s employment.

“We shrank the salary base so, you get [the money] back—if you think of it that way—in about 18 months,” said Concordia president Alan Shepard.

“That [payout] is a one-time [thing], because we paid the people to leave but their salaries won’t be there next year or the year after so we will recuperate that [money],” added Norman Hébert Jr., Chair of the Board of Directors.

The direct austerity cuts from the provincial government also played into last year’s deficit.

“Since December 2012 we have lost $30 million at Concordia [in government subsidies],” said Chris Mota, Concordia’s director of media relations.

However, Shepard remains optimistic about the future of finances at the school.

“Our deficits relative to other institutions are still modest. And what’s called our accumulated deficit, like deficits you run in the past, is just last year’s deficit and it’s very tiny,” said Shepard. “My gut feeling—and there are no rumours here, it’s just a gut feeling you get from reading newspapers and just watching—is that we’re coming to the end of those cuts. But maybe I’m wrong.”

The Board of Directors meeting also covered how the school is working to double its research. That means doubling the research budget—which is already breaking records said Shepard—and doubling the amount of research done at Concordia.

“The research funding is at an all-time-high for Concordia last year, it was around $45 million,” he added.

The future of Montreal bridges was also discussed at the meeting. Robert Poëti, Quebec’s transport minister, was recently at Concordia to inspect a project ongoing in one of the school’s major research centres in the basement of the Hall Building.

The centre is working on a project where solar panels would be installed on the side of bridges and then harvest solar energy to heat the bridge. Heating bridges in this fashion means no salt needs to be dumped on it in the winter, which thereby avoids major salt corrosion that leads to bridges needing to be replaced every couple of years, said Shepard.

The new Student Information System (SIS) was discussed at the meeting. Shepard called the current system “ugly,” but he added the technology needed to be functional, and then it could be updated to be more visually appealing after it was up and running.

The SIS system was designed to be implemented and updated in phases, said Mota, so there are no extra costs in updating the system.

Students should keep an eye out for the SIS app which will be one of the final phases to be implemented for the system, added Mota.

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