Voluntary retirement plan put in place

As the University of Lethbridge moves through its budget cycle, U of L administrators say they are moving forward with alternate budget planning and the implementation of a voluntary retirement program, among other ideas, to save money over the next two fiscal years.

"We are still waiting for a response from the government on the level of funding we hope to receive," says Karen Clearwater, associate vice-president, financial planning.
"We have been told at this time to expect only our base funding with no increases for the next two years, and that is what we have been planning for. This leaves us with approximately $147 million per year to operate the University, but also an estimated $5 million in shortfalls in 2010-2011, and an additional $6 million in 2011- 2012. Although the government's Budget 2009 calls for no increases in post-secondary funding, there is still a gap in the provincial budget that needs to be dealt with. A meeting has been called with all post-secondary institution presidents and board chairs in Edmonton on Oct. 6. We hope to know more after this meeting."

"We began planning for a deficit budget since the spring, and are still in the preliminary stages of the budget which will be approved by the Board of Governors in March 2010," Clearwater adds.
"In the last Legend story (June 2009) I indicated that we had a three-stage plan.
That plan involved a re-examination of our current budget, a move to find cost savings through University-wide initiatives like the Voluntary Retirement Program, not filling all vacated positions and finally, after thorough review, we would move to reduce the budget shortfall by asking units to reduce their budgets through reductions to positions, programs or non-essential services."

Clearwater says she and other officials are meeting regularly with senior administrators, deans and directors to further discuss options. Meetings have been held with the AUPE and ULFA executives to make them aware of the budget situation.

In the interim, Clearwater says the U of L has introduced some operational changes and a voluntary retirement program for employees with more than 20 years of continuous service. Faculty members must qualify with a 75 factor (age plus years of continuing service).

"There are an estimated 200 individuals who potentially meet the eligibility requirements of this initiative," Clearwater says.
"I can't impress enough on people that we're making a real effort to find ways to operate the University in a manner that doesn't affect our students, and allows as many people as possible to retain their jobs."