Thursday, 18 June 2015 11:18

MHC Board approves budget including major layoffs

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In an environment of rising operating costs and declining government funding, Medicine Hat College’s Board of Governors has approved an operating budget for the institution’s 2015-2016 year.

The approval of the budget coincides with the launch of the institution’s new strategic plan, which focuses on creating exceptional experiences for students, employees and communities.
The budget process was a difficult one, with several constraints to consider. A reduction in government funding of 1.4 per cent, coupled with rising operating costs (including pre-negotiated salary increases), necessitated significant change.
To achieve a balanced budget, several difficult decisions were made:
• Four programs were suspended earlier this spring. (Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership, Massage Therapy, Education Assistant and Global Tourism and Marketing)
• The equivalent of 27.92 full-time positions have been eliminated through a voluntary leave program and layoffs.
According to president and CEO, Dr. Denise Henning, change is necessary to ensure the college is sustainable into the future.
“This year’s budget process was indeed a difficult one, and some very hard decisions were made, some of which affected people directly. We are saddened to lose people, as it is not indicative of their value to our college, it is just the reality we face as we evolve and adapt to our environment. We are not isolated from the economy of the region or of the province.”
Despite a change in government and a new provincial budget expected in the fall, the college will continue to work with existing information.
Says Henning, “Our best option is to continue down the path we are on and not speculate on changes that could be made in the coming months by our new government. If new funding does become available, we will evaluate our priorities and decide where best to invest additional dollars.”
In the face of budgetary constraints, the college was still able to keep the focus on students and invest in key growth areas. Most notably, a dedicated position to support First Nations, Métis and Inuit learners was added, as well as additional seats in some high demand program areas, including nursing and power engineering. Expansion is also planned for programming in non-credit areas, such as corporate training.
With a greater emphasis on student support, restructuring of the student development department also occurred.
“The institution must continue to invest in areas that will benefit students by providing greater access to programming and more supports for those who choose to study at MHC,” says Henning.
Efforts to reduce dependency on government funding are also underway. Creating or enhancing opportunities for revenue generation, including events and conference hosting, will support college activity while serving the community.
The college’s new budget will take effect July 1.

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