Adapting our budget together
President holds first budget town hall to review financial health and budget model
Stressing transparency and accountability, President Michael Benarroch opened his first Town Hall to a total of roughly 250 people gathered in-person and watching the livestream on Sept. 28. The focus of this town hall was on the university’s budget and finances.
Dr. Benarroch engaged in similar town halls while serving as Dean of the Asper School and as Provost and Vice-Chancellor at Toronto Metropolitan University, and has been awaiting a time for the campus community to safely gather to host this type of event focused on UM’s finances.
“I believe it gives our community an opportunity to see our budget and creates some really informative dialogue,” he said. “I see us meeting the needs of our province and the world as they evolve. We also need to evolve to meet the needs of our faculty, staff and students, and the budget is an important part of this.”
Joining Dr. Benarroch was Mike Emslie, UM’s Chief Financial Officer, who provided an overview of the university’s financial position and budgeting process, focusing on the university’s operating funds.
Emslie indicated that UM is in reasonable financial health, but receives less operating revenue per student than most other U15 institutions. This is due to operating grant increases over the past 20 years being insufficient to off-set the impact of tuition regulation, which has seen Manitoba tuition increase much more slowly than in other Canadian provinces. Emslie stated that if UM were to receive the average per-student revenue of its peers in the U15, this would provide an additional $60 million in operating revenue annually.
For the year ended March 31, 2022 UM’s total revenues were $969 million and expenditures were $893 million, resulting in a surplus of $76 million. This surplus, Emslie noted, is not unusual in the Canadian context and resulted from deviations from the 2021-2022 budget predictions. These deviations included unfilled staff and faculty positions and unexpected turnover, higher enrollments than anticipated and reduced costs related to supplies and travel due to the pandemic. In the current budget model, any unit with a surplus carries those funds forward to pay for future needs.
Learn more about UM’s budget model.
One liability concern Emslie discussed was UM’s infrastructure deficit, noting that UM is responsible for the maintenance and renewal of its facilities and equipment, including roads and utilities at the Fort Garry campus, and it does not receive sufficient funding to meet those needs. UM has in excess of $300 million in critical deferred maintenance, including the campus power grid, which requires $100 million in upgrades and maintenance to address reliability issues and meet future needs.
Capital investments aside, the key investments for the current year’s budget which was approved in May of 2022 include:
- Significant investments in wage increases
- Advancing EDI and Indigenous engagement and achievement
- Increased investment in research
- Supporting students financially and increasing resources providing student supports
- Curriculum renewal and Faculty positions
- Expanding experiential learning opportunities
- Support for post-COVID return to campus
- Expansion of Nursing Program seat capacity
Emslie also noted that, for a variety reasons, expenses are projected to grow more quickly than revenue over the next few years. To better enable the university to weather this period, UM is introducing a multi-year budget approach to enhance its ability to able to react to pressures as they emerge and to responsibly manage funds over the next few years.
The 2023-24 to 2025-26 budget planning process will have to contend with revenue uncertainty, wage and inflationary cost increases, critical infrastructure needs, and the fact that expenditure growth will exceed revenue growth.
“It is important we find a balance of spending on current needs and needs of the future,” Emslie said. “It’s going to involve cooperation to balance this in the coming years.”
Emslie and the president both stressed that this conversation is intended to be ongoing, and that anyone with questions or ideas concerning the budget can submit them to budgetconsultation [at] umanitoba [dot] ca.
A survey will be launched on September 28 to the campus community asking for people to rank their budget priorities.
“This is not a one-time event. It is a conversation we have to have continually,” Dr. Benarroch said. “We are committed to transparency on campus and we are committed to engaging with our community….We want to hear when we do that well, and when the community thinks we have not done well, so that we can improve. Please send us feedback.”
Also coming in the new year are consultations with the campus community in developing UM’s new strategic plan. “You will get sick of hearing me plug this,” Dr. Benarroch said, “but it is very important that we get as many people as possible informing us.”
Budget survey: Provide your input
As UM is preparing its 2023-24 operating budget, we would like to invite additional community input and perspective through this budget survey.
The survey should take three to five minutes to complete and is open until October 20, 2022. All survey responses are completely confidential and cannot be traced to individual respondents. Results of this survey will be reported only at the group level; no individual responses will be reported.
Additional questions may be directed to budget.consultation [at] umanitoba [dot] ca