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Budget, no bursar

Budget prep at King’s may be more difficult now that bursar Gerry Smith has taken administrative leave.
Smith has been charged with sexual assault, indecent assault and gross indecency for alleged incidents spanning five years in the early 1980s. Smith was not King’s staff at the time of the alleged incidents.
He must abstain from communication with children under 16, unless accompanied by parent or guardian, avoid playgrounds, schoolyards and anywhere children may frequent and abstain from contact with five individuals related to the trial. Smith is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in December.
President Anne Leavitt has confirmed Smith is on paid leave and “may be doing some work for us” from home.
She says she cannot say whether Smith will take as active a role in the budget as he has in past years, or when he might return.
“If we need some assistance, we’ll bring people in,” said Leavitt. “If I need somebody, I’ll figure out what kind of person that is, and I’ll bring them in.”
Her budget team as of now consists of the vice-president, the Board of Governors treasurer, and the bursar’s office.
Unlike past years, the president is not meeting regularly with the Budget Advisory Committee, a committee formed of representatives from throughout the university.
“It’s a bit misnamed,” said Leavitt. This is also the first year without King’s Students’ Union representatives on the committee.
“I believe (past president) Bill Barker set up something called the Budget Advisory Committee about four years ago. It’s not something that’s been in existence at King’s as a matter of government,” she said.
Barker said in an email that he restructured the BAC about five years ago. There previously had been a budget committee, he said, but “the current structure was put in place to give greater faculty, student, and staff response to the administration’s budget,” before it moved on to be finalized by executive budget committees and the Board.
This year, Leavitt said, she, Smith and vice-president Kim Kierans have met directly with department directors to review their budget proposals.
Leavitt said she has met formally with the BAC once, for about two hours, but noted that the administration is looking for more than what the BAC has done in past years.
“That committee did a lot of very good work in finding savings here and there in very small ways, but which added up to significant means for the university. We will not be looking at that kind of a process for next year because we’re not looking at adding up very tiny savings. There are not a lot of savings made that way,” she said.
“Almost 80 per cent of our money is tied up in salaries. And so, if we want to settle some of our budget problems with $1,000 from the library, $15,000 from (the Foundation Year Programme), they’re not going to solve our budget problems going forward,” she said.
“We need to look at something more dramatic. And I’m not sure what that’s going to be,” said Leavitt.
Another complication added last month is the Dalhousie Faculty Association contract, which King’s follows to set the salaries for its non-unionized professors.
“We also have to figure out the impact of the DFA settlement,” Leavitt said.
At King’s, only the teaching fellows on yearly contracts are unionized. This is the first union on campus for professors of any kind, and it has been negotiating its first contract since last summer. The union recently has brought in a conciliator.
Leavitt said she is running several scenarios for the operating budget with the treasurer of the King’s Board of Governors, Katrina Beach, a certified account with the local lawyers firm, Grant Thornton LLP.
Beach directed questions about the budget and about Smith to the Board chair on Friday.
Leavitt confirmed that the BAC discussed revenue-raising possibilities including adult-learner courses, university prep classes and summer school.
“Those kinds of things have been talked about on campus for years,” she said, without saying if they are being considered by administration.“
“They’re good ideas,” she said. “They might happen.”
She has run summer schools at other universities “in a much larger capacity than what King’s could offer,” she said, and so is familiar with the idea.
“I’ve never seen them make a lot of money, but they could be worth doing for their own sake. Whether King’s went down that road would depend very much upon faculty: whether they’re willing, interested to do it and whether it fits as part of their programs. It’s not something the administration can, or could or should command,” she said.
“We haven’t found the plan yet but we’re working on it,” said Leavitt, confident the administrative team of the president, vice-president, bursar’s office and treasurer will have a budget ready for the board meeting in June, two months from now.
As for missing Smith, an administrator who has historically been intricately involved in budget planning, Leavitt remains positive despite his charges.
“That, as far as I understand, would have happened thirty years ago, and King’s takes the position, as should any Canadian citizen, that a person is innocent until formally found guilty in a court of law.”
As for how they’ll do without Smith’s help? “Well, you know, we’ll cope.”
With research assistance from Ben Harrison, Philippa Wolff and Rose Behar.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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