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$3.2-million deficit part of 2013-14 U of L budget

Two months after a significant funding blow was delivered, the University of Lethbridge has presented its budget for next year.

The numbers approved late Thursday include fee increases as high as $200 per year, which isn’t sitting well with students.

“This budget wasn’t supposed to be balanced on our back,” said Katie Kalmar, Vice-President Academic with the U of L Students’ Union. “(The mandatory, non-instructional fee) goes to pretty well cover what the University can’t at this point.”

School administrators argue the extra $15 per course is a necessary move, in helping recover a missing $12-million in provincial money.

The institution has said all fees are ultimately funding student services.

“There are a lot of services we provide that we don’t get specific funding for from the government or from students themselves,” said Nancy Walker, the U of L’s Vice-President of Finance. “That’s what we’re putting this money towards.”

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Walker suggests those expenses include counselling and tutoring programs.

The $160-million operating budget will impact employment too. Staff will receive a lower cost-of-living adjustment, while only one quarter of positions emptied following voluntary retirements will be refilled.

“We have 34 that have signed up over a three-year period,” U of L president Mike Mahon said on Monday, after presenting budget concerns to Lethbridge city council.

“We’re going through the work of determining how many of those we will replace,” he said. “Frankly, we’re trying to replace as small a number as possible.”

Some campus construction projects have also been delayed.

Still, there is a $3.2-million deficit, some of which could be made up by the fall. Any remaining deficit is expected to be covered by one-time funding.

“We may suspend programs with very low enrollment,” said Walker. “It wouldn’t effect students currently enrolled. There are some programs where there just isn’t (a high enrollment) or student need for the program.”

With more of a student impact on the horizon, the ULSU hopes to play a bigger role in the budget process.

“In the future, show us where our money is going,” said Kalmar.

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