PEI Finance Minister Wes Sheridan’s April budget announcement held few surprises for Islanders who have been told fiscal restraint is the order of the day.
The Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning cut 5.6 per cent from its overall budget, with core funding to the University of Prince Edward Island and Holland College remaining flat.
The zero per cent change is effectively a cut after taking into account cost-of-living increases, said UPEI Faculty Association president Betty Jeffery. She called the budget figure disappointing, particularly as it follows on zero per cent last year, and a three per cent cut in 2012.
“The faculty association met with 20 of our 27 MLAs over the last year in an effort to reach out and communicate the importance of post-secondary education. It’s too bad the dialogue didn’t lead to improved funding,” she said, noting that a three per cent increase would have been welcomed.
The university’s board of governors met April 24 and approved a “balanced operating budget” that “avoids core program cuts or layoffs.” But the bottom line is “normal inflationary effects, salary increments, pension commitments, benefit costs, heat, electricity, deferred maintenance, continue to be other cost drivers.”
About 400 academic staff are represented by the faculty association, with sessional instructors accounting for about 120 of that number, with another 35 on term contracts ranging between 10 months to three years.
The board also announced as part of its 2014–2015 budget that undergraduate tuition will rise 3 per cent.
Jeffery said on top of UPEI’s operating grant staying the same, money for “sorely needed” infrastructure maintenance and facilities-related improvements was noticeably absent in the latest provincial budget.
“Dollars ear-marked for infrastructure are something the government could have provided through restricted funding, but that didn’t happen either,” she said.