November 20, 2015

By McGill Reporter Staff

Christopher Manfredi - OE cropped
Photo: Owen Egan

The good news, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi told Senate Wednesday, is that the provincial government hasn’t dropped any surprises into its final message on university spending for the current fiscal year.

In the last two fiscal years, significant cuts were made partway through the year, which prompted numerous budget revisions, more cuts and projected deficits.

The government, Manfredi said, echoing his predecessor, Anthony C. Masi, forces universities to “fly blind” for a large part of the fiscal year, until it delivers what are called “règlements budgétaires,” which outline the specific amounts of money universities will receive in a given fiscal year.

In announcing that he has begun the process for determining the budget for fiscal year 2016-17 (which begins in May), Manfredi said he expects that government revenues will likely be within 1 or 2 per cent of expectations for this year and he is playing it safe and expecting a potential cut of 2 to 2.5 per cent in the government’s grant to McGill for the next fiscal year.

“In terms of big-picture planning, there’s not too much detail; we do hear that the government is looking at trying to achieve $1 billion in savings over all, including $200 million in education. That could mean a 1-per-cent reduction in the grant to McGill,” he said, “but to be on the safe side, I’m thinking in my own mind of the possibility of a 2- to 2.5-per-cent cut.”

The first part of the budget process, which has begun, involves meetings between the Provost and the various Deans, in which new initiatives are considered and agreements are determined with Faculties about budget envelopes. Manfredi will make a second report to Senate before presenting the final budget book in the spring.

Manfredi’s report to Senate followed Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa’s presentation of the annual report of the financial state of the University as of fiscal year 2014-15.

The lengthy and detailed report shows University revenues totaled $1.21 billion from all sources, with the lion’s share (36 per cent) coming from the Government of Quebec. This is measured against $1.18 billion in expenditures, nearly half of which is represented by academic and administrative staff salaries.

The University’s Endowment Fund has increased in value from $1.28 billion in 2014 to $1.43 billion in 2015, and fundraising efforts continue to pull in nearly $90 million a year, the report indicates.

Di Grappa’s report addressed the continuing challenge of deferred maintenance, and revealed that the amount of money that needs to be spent is higher than previously thought.

“For the past few years, McGill’s total deferred maintenance (DM) inventory has been reported to be $835 million at the University’s two campuses,” the report said. “Since last year’s report, a more in-depth study mandated by the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire (BCI) –formerly Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ) – and conducted by external professionals (Planifika) has been completed. Based on the results of this study, the current, most reliable estimate of the University’s total DM inventory is approximately $1.3 billion.

“Among the major elements excluded from the Planifika study are building façades. As reported last year, due to a recent modification of the Loi sur le bâtiment, building inspections are required for at least 60 buildings at McGill before the end of 2017, of which the 38 oldest buildings must be inspected by the end of 2015. These technical inspections are being conducted separately from the Panifika study. Upon completion, the results will further refine and update on the current estimate of McGill’s total DM inventory. To date we have completed façade inspections of six buildings and intend on completing an additional three between now and December 31, 2015.”

One of the buildings that has been identified as needing significant work is the Macdonald-Stewart Building that houses the Shulich Science and Engineering Library.

Di Grappa told Senate the University has asked the province to help defray the $27-million cost of façade restoration required in the near future.