Budget Face-off

The King’s Students’ Union thinks they know where the money should go at King’s. This summer, the union prepared an alternative budget for the university, to mixed reviews.

The King’s Students’ Union thinks they know where the money should go at King’s. This summer, the union prepared an alternative budget for the university, to mixed reviews.
Gabe Hoogers, president of the KSU, helped create an alternative budget for the 2011/2012 school year. It is the first time an alternative budget has been presented to the King’s Board of Governors.
Hoogers says the school’s budget should benefit students as well as faculty. “We wanted a way to show how we were dissatisfied,” he said.
When presented at a board meeting in June, Hoogers says the alternative budget received “warm reception” from various board members. But Gerry Smith, King’s bursar, said the alternative budget was incomplete. He says the alternative budget would have made good discussion items for the budget advisory committee, but that proposing it straight to the board was “presumptuous.”
“You’re overextending your area. For the KSU to come and turn those priorities on their head is irresponsible. They are not understanding the process and in some ways not respecting the process,” said Smith. “It wasn’t discussed and vetted through the budget advisor.”
The official budget goes through a lengthy process. Each department prepares a budget based on their administration needs. A budget committee then works with the university’s president to make recommendations to the finance committee on the board. From here, the budget goes to the executive committee. The executive committee votes on the operating budget for the coming year.
Smith believes that the collective needs of the university are represented in the official budget, but not in the alternative budget. In preparing their budget, Smith said, the KSU failed to respect the budget input process at King’s.
One major area of focus for the KSU was the “huge” amount of money budgeted for scholarships.
The KSU proposed moving some scholarship money into a tuition freeze, needs-based grants or bursaries.
Smith says the KSU didn’t do their homework.
“You haven’t asked the registrar’s office, you haven’t asked recruitment, you haven’t asked the academic programs if they want to honor past commitments and maintain scholarships. You leap frog a whole bunch of series to just present something,” said Smith.
Elizabeth Yeo, registrar at the school and non-voting Board of Govornor’s member, says the university budget is actually moving in the same direction that the alternative budget proposed.
In 2006, a subcommittee of faculty prepared a position paper on scholarship funding. It was made up of members of the scholarship committee and the bursary committee. The paper emphasized the importance of needs-based funding within the school. Since the paper was written, needs-based scholarships at Kings have steadily increased.
“This value for access to the King’s education is important to everyone,” Yeo said.
At the board meeting in June, where the KSU presented the alternative budget, the faculty-proposed budget for the 2011/2012 school year was successfully passed.
Smith says the alternative budget did not have any impact on the King’s budget.
But Hoogers is not discouraged.
“It was an interesting thought experiment to start from scratch and build up, rather than continue on the slog from each and every year that inevitably leads to some sort of a budgetary crisis, which is happening and has been happening,” said Hoogers.
Smith describes King’s financial situation as “challenging”; governments have less money, and consequently so do universities.
“Every university in Nova Scotia has a financial challenge right now,” Smith said. He says this was considered in the King’s budget.
Hoogers says he hopes the alternative budget becomes a trend at King’s.
“I hope to really engage students and to use it as an educational tool so that students understand where their tuition money is going in this whole university,” Hoogers said.
The alternative budget will be presented to students at a general meeting on September 29th.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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