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UNB’s $4.2 million surplus raises questions

According to an email sent by UNB president Eddy Campbell to faculty and staff last Thursday evening, the university has accrued a $4.2 million surplus for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

“We have, in recent years, put ourselves on a sound financial footing. It has not been easy. Moving from deficits to surpluses in our operating budgets has clearly come with pain and with sacrifice,” said Campbell in his email.

The $4.2 million makes up about two per cent of the university’s total operating budget of last year.

The surplus was achieved through “better-than-anticipated revenues from both international student enrolment and short-term investment returns.”

Other savings included $1.3 million in contingency money that wasn’t needed and $1.1 million in unbudgeted salary savings.

This is not the first time in recent years that UNB has accrued a surplus.

“We have had surpluses in the last few years, but that wasn’t always the case. We have been in the position of running deficits in the past,” said Campbell.

The email also divulged some information regarding UNB’s risk funds and other one-time money which adds up to $8.2 million. Some of this is the result of improved investment returns and a conversion to a shared-risk pension plan for faculty pensions.

“UNB, like other universities, carries a number of accounts or funds earmarked for certain expenses or risks. It’s common practice,” Campbell said.

This extra money places UNB on stable ground financially, especially in consideration of the 12.5 per cent faculty salary increase, which is being spread over three years. Last year, $600,000 of the surplus was put towards the salary increase, meaning that the surplus was originally $4.8 million.

Campbell said in his letter that the salary increase over the next two years could add up to an additional cost of between $4.5 million and $5.7 million.

“The good news is that UNB’s finances are strong enough at the moment to cover the immediate costs,” Campbell said. But he added that “while we can employ these funds as needed, their ‘one-time’ status does not help us cover additional, ongoing costs.”

Not everyone sees the surplus as a positive step forward. Miriam Jones, president of the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) is concerned that the faculty and students won’t see surplus reflected in the university’s academic programs.

“We were disheartened to discover that despite the revelations of the last year, those who determine UNB’s finances have apparently continued with the policy of stockpiling a surplus on the backs of the students and the academic programs,” she said.

The AUNBT is also concerned about where the unbudgeted salary savings came from.

In the meantime, the Board of Governors has set aside the surplus and reserve funds until a better plan for covering the extra costs is developed. Consultation for this will be done on both the Saint John and Fredericton campuses.

“The funds we are discussing are all one-time monies — once they are depleted, that’s it. We will need to find millions of dollars more every year to cover the increases into the future,” Campbell said.

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