NWCC president defends cuts, budget process

Denise Henning, president of Northwest Community College defends the proposed staff cuts and the budget process at the college.

Editor:

(Re: March 20, Letter to the Editor from Judy McCloskey)

The administration at Northwest Community College (NWCC) respects the rights of all individuals to express their opinions.

In fact, as an institution of higher learning we encourage the expression of one’s view and value intelligent, factual debate.

When an individual releases written public comment related to a specific organization or its employees, we believe it is important that the facts conveyed are accurate.

In the case of Ms. McCloskey’s letter, not all of the facts related to NWCC presented in her letter are correct.

In particular Ms. McCloskey’s referenced how she believes decisions at NWCC are being made.

Her letter states, “The developmental department at the college is not efficient according to the very small cadre of upper managers who are making all the deficit-busting decisions. We, and you, don’t know what research or analysis is being used to guide this administration’s decisions, however.

We – many of us at the college in both support and faculty positions – have repeatedly asked for this research, so we can see for ourselves the ‘facts’ that are guiding the deep, arbitrary cuts. That crucially important information has not been forthcoming. No one will provide us with that indisputable evidence.”

For several months there have been ongoing consultations between the NWCC administration, our employee groups and members of the community.

These consultations, as well as significant financial data, economic trends, institutional statistics, feedback mechanisms and a set of guiding principles have been the key components that are informing budget decision making at NWCC, and are available online.

This information includes:

– The NWCC President Updates http://budget.nwcc.bc.ca, NWCC’s financial data including audited financial statements http://budget.nwcc.bc.ca

An online suggestion box to encourage idea generation related to addressing the NWCC budget shortfall, accessible at: http://budget.nwcc.bc.ca

Institutional facts available at www.nwcc.bc.ca

The Ministry of Advanced Education Service Plan also plays a role in providing context for our planning and is available online at http://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2012/sp/pdf/ministry/aved.pd.

As well, NWCC engaged in a Planning and Priorities process that gathered input from stakeholders across the region.

We shared this important feedback with both employees and students at forums hosted by NWCC.

This feedback will be used to establish the Colleges Strategic Plan.

For anyone to suggest or imply that the difficult budget decisions being made at NWCC are being done in isolation and that we have not shared our decision making processes with employees and the public, is inaccurate.

Further to this, to suggest as Ms. McCloskey has, that decisions are being made without being properly research or analysis is also inaccurate.

We believe we have engaged in extensive consultations and feedback processes to ensure that the actions we take minimize the impact of students, staff and the community.

In her letter Ms. McCloskey also focused her attention towards the value of developmental programs and the value of educated citizens.

We agree with her on both these topics.

However, the value of development programs is not in question.

The value of post secondary education is not in question and the quality of programs and services at NWCC is not in question.

We are proud of the excellent work that is being done by our faculty and staff.

NWCC has a deficit, like other institutions in BC, we are stewards of the public’s money and have a legal responsibility to manage our budget, and yes cuts have to be made.

To recap NWCC’s financial position:

NWCC’s operating budget is approximately $30.5 million annually

Our government base grant is $17.9 million, including our Annual Capital Allowance of $215,000

Our government grant has remained at the same level for three years and the

province announced there will be no increases to the 2012-13 budget and there will be budget reductions in 2013-14 and 2014 – 15

With an annual rate of inflation of about 2 – 2.5 per cent, this fiscal environment has challenged NWCC and other colleges and universities in the province.

NWCC has a deficit of about $1.6 million for the current the fiscal year and forecast a $2 million deficit in the in the next fiscal year if we don’t make adjustments.

NWCC is working through a process to ensure individuals impacted by cuts are well informed regarding their rights and options.  The full scope of our downsizing will not be known until late April because we are working with impacted staff and affording them the opportunity to exercise their rights under their collective agreements.

We know this is extremely difficult for employees and members of the community. It has been and continues to be the goal of the NWCC administration and union leadership at NWCC to ensure this budget reconciliation process continues to be respectful.  The NWCC administration continues to work proactively with employees and our government to ensure that as we address our fiscal realities, the quality and high standards established at NWCC are not eroded.

NWCC is a valuable community asset impacting the lives of students and our communities. We are a cornerstone of our communities’ economic success and remain committed to providing high quality and accessible post-secondary education well into the future.

Denise Henning PhD

President

Northwest Community College