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Northern Lights College: 2012-13 budget announcement

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DAWSON CREEK – Northern Lights College has overcome pressures totaling approximately $1.9 million in reaching a balanced operational budget for 2012-13.

In undertaking budget deliberations, members of the College’s Administration and Executive committees worked with status quo base funding from the Province’s Ministry of Advanced Education, as outlined in the recent provincial budget.

However, the College was faced with financial pressures in the following areas:
· regular salary step increases for staff members;
· a 1.5 per cent increase in the cost of employee benefits;
· amortization on capital costs; and
· a nine per cent increase in the cost of utilities.

To meet the budget challenges, NLC has undertaken the following steps:
· accepted applications for early retirement or voluntary termination from 12 staff members;
· increased fees for living in the Dawson Creek and Fort St. John campus residences, thereby bringing them into closer alignment with provincial and regional averages;
· increased domestic tuition rates by two per cent;
· cancelled the Geomatics Engineering Technology program due to low enrolment;
· searched out new funding sources with successful applications for special project funding at campuses across the region; and
· made decisions that will result in the elimination of some current positions, and the layoff of some staff members.

Including early retirements and voluntary departures, 14.32 full time equivalent positions – at all levels of the College – are impacted. This includes non-unionized staff, and unionized faculty and support staff who are members of the BCGEU. Discussions are underway with the BCGEU to provide impacted unionized staff members with their options.

“Decisions of this magnitude, especially when they impact members of the College community, are only undertaken as an absolute last resort,” said Laurie Rancourt, President and CEO of Northern Lights College. “The College’s budget managers examined every area of the budget to find all savings possible before involuntary staffing decisions were considered. Unfortunately, we were forced to make decisions that went deeper than we had originally anticipated.”

While the 2012-13 budget currently is balanced, additional budget pressures are likely to be felt based on:
· confirmation of funding levels from the Industry Training Authority;
· results of bargaining for new collective agreements with the BCGEU for both Faculty and Support Staff; and
· the need for the College to start working towards finding resources to cover funding reductions, starting in 2013-14, that were announced in this year’s Provincial Budget.

NLC continues to receive support from various sources, including the federal government through Western Economic Diversification. This funding is being used for the installation of a full-sized oilrig as part of the Simulated Well Site Training facility at the Fort St. John Campus. None of the money used for this project could have been diverted to the operating budget deliberations to help avoid any of the decisions outlined above.

The College’s Board of Governors accepted the $31.4 million operating budget at its April 11 meeting. Impacted staff members were informed individually on April 12; and a general announcement via a College-wide staff videoconference also occurred on April 13.