‘Signficant’ and ‘difficult’ choices to be made: Woolf
Economy: Cutbacks loom if operating costs not reduced, Queen’s principal warns.
By IAN ELLIOT
The Kingston Whig Standard November 27, 2009
Daniel Woolf delivered his first financial update as principal of Queen’s University yesterday, but the message was as gloomy as those delivered by his predecessor. Addressing a room full of faculty, staff and students at the Robert Sutherland Building yesterday, Woolf said the university’s financial situation remains as dire as ever.
Despite some recent concessions by employees, Woolf said a voluntary wage rollback was rejected by the university’s faculty association. He said if operating costs, primarily salaries and benefits, are not reduced, it will necessitate cutbacks that will further affect the quality of education at Queen’s.
“There will be significant, and difficult, choices to be made,” Woolf said, noting that trustees had told administrators to reduce the annual deficit to zero by the end of the 2012 fiscal year.
It is much the same scenario long painted by his predecessor, Tom Williams, who said the university, like many in Ontario, found itself in a perfect storm of falling government support, tumultuous markets that have reduced its endowments and rising costs.
Woolf revealed at the meeting that he had taken a 2% wage cut and would not accept his annual raise this coming year as a symbolic gesture.
“I have taken this step because I feel so strongly about what I see happening around me and how strongly I feel we need to take action,” he said. But his efforts to have faculty do the same appear to have fallen flat.
At the meeting, he revealed that the faculty association last week rejected his proposal that they take a similar voluntary cut, with 1% going to their individual faculty budget and the other half to the university’s deficit reduction efforts.
The faculty did agree to discussions about an early retirement package and other cost reduction efforts.
A different employee group, the staff association, recently signed a labour agreement that he said would save about $2 million a year and he held that deal with the non-union association up as an example.
He also said he was drawing money from other budgets to create a $1 million transition fund that academic departments could draw from if they wished to restructure and become more efficient. The fund would pay for one-time costs related to restructuring.
Woolf said with salaries and benefits making up 70% of the operating budget, they would be the main focus of university cost-cutting in the weeks and months to come. He also said the school’s efforts to eliminate its deficit would come from a number of small initiatives and not one grand cost-cutting effort.
“There is going to be no single solution to these issues,” he said.
“There is going to have to be a combination of measures”