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Budget problems plague Fanshawe, Western

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | News | March 9th, 2009

Warning signs that Fanshawe College is facing a cash short fall does not come as a shocker to some.

There were definite warning signs as to why Fanshawe College currently falls short $6.5 million for its upcoming 2009/10 academic year, according to Emily Marcoccia, Manager of Marketing and Communications at Fanshawe College.

Claims were made that the college has withheld certain financial aspects of the institution.

“There were warning signs to some extent,” explained Paddy Musson, local union 110 president representing more than 650 full-and-part-time teachers, counselors and librarians and faculty member at Fanshawe College. “The short fall is larger than what we saw last year...but the other reason why it is not surprising is that the (college) is very reluctant to share information with the union, the board of governors and with the employees in general.”

The short fall has college union members concerned with the chance of lay-offs.

“It is much too early to say what the impact will be on staff,” said Marcoccia.

“We have put some hiring limitations on right determine whether or not we have to fill that vacancy or if we can wait to fill it down the road.”

According to Marcoccia, the short fall comes form a mixture of things experienced throughout the year.

The budget problems aren't just affecting Fanshawe College.

Early warning signs started in January when the University of Western Ontario lost millions of dollars in the shaky stock market bringing them to no other option but freezing hiring and possibly lay off full-time staff. Their faculty and support units have been asked to reduce their operating budgets by an additional 2.5 per cent each of 2009-10 and 2010-11.

“(The college) says there's a hiring freeze but then they turn around and hire contract workers until the freeze is over,” Musson said. “It's not a hiring freeze if you have a body in the job…you are creating an illusion of a freeze.”

Resolving this issue has taken several meetings this past year, but according to Marcoccia, “we are just now in the phase where the bigger picture and new projections become known. We go to the Board every month, but their meeting where the final budget is approved is not until...April 23.”

There have been indications the Provincial government will not be issuing additional grants to help off-set the $6.5 million short fall for the college, according to Marcoccia, but said the board will not know for sure until the late provincial budget comes down in March.

Musson believes the Provincial government does put in a fair amount of money into the college system but insists they need to “demand all information needed by the college.”

“The Ontario government has not been good at following through on accountability and transparency,” Musson said.

Marcoccia mentioned this “short fall” to not be the first of it's kind. In the mid-nineties, when the country was also in a recession, the college system faced the same type of hardships. She also said that a number of other post-secondary institutions are in “worse shape.”

Musson agreed that we are now in a position where our economy has taken a nosedive, so every tax dollar that comes into the Provincial treasury is needed.

Both parties have agreed that the quality of education should be the most important factor when it comes to its students.

“Everything we decide has to be decided in the best interest of students...always our number one priority,” added Marcoccia. “Colleges are not immune to the effects of a recession... we all agree that quality education is key and no one wants to see that suffer so we need to work hard, together, to find solutions.”
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