Layoff notices have been issued to a number of College of New Caledonia (CNC) employees due to a growing $2.8 million deficit.
During a public meeting at the Vanderhoof campus on April 1, CNC president Henry Reiser said the notices will not come into effect until July 31, adding people may, in fact, not be laid off. However, Reiser made it clear that job cuts were inevitable.
“But let’s be frank, there will be job losses. The only way to meet the target of 10 per cent operational funding is vertical cuts. Since 2007, $12 million has been removed from the base budget…were at a point [that] there’s nothing left,” Reiser said.
Each year the college board is required to approve a balanced budget. Since 2008-2009, the college has had to find roughly $12.5 million in additional revenues or reductions in expenses to continually achieve a balanced budget. For the fiscal year 2015-2016, a combination of expense reductions and revenue increases totalling $2.8 million is required to achieve the required balanced operating budget.
When CNC hired Reiser nearly a year ago, he implemented a one-college model standardizing programming and administration at all six campuses including Fort St. James, Burns Lake, Vanderhoof, Prince George and Quesnel. The reason for the implementation of the new model, Reiser said, is to ensure all students receive the same experience and to save money.
“Convocation for example is different at every school so standardizing will ensure students are getting the same experience at each campus,” Reiser said.
A cost recovery program will start to contribute 15 per cent of total revenue toward college overhead including costs such as student services, human resources and payroll, maintaining buildings and equipment and paying vendors for their services.
Reiser noted in his initial summary that the current Vanderhoof campus costs CNC too much but the school will stay open while the college searches for a new location.
Three new regional principals will take over in MacKenzie, Quesnel and Nechako Lakes instead of the current four regional directors.
The new principals will be responsible for regional planning, community liaison, labour market development and planning and campus and regional service operations. They will work with the dean of trades and plan for five years to rotate trades through CNC, Reiser said.
“We can not run a section that’s under-subscribed. We have a metric that we must meet. It’s a 97.5 per cent completion rate or we are penalized for that module. For trades it’s 87.5. If you don’t reach that target you’re penalized again so we have to be very judicious,” he said.
Emily Colombo, economic development officer in Fort St. James, asked at the meeting how community values will be kept intact if the principal doesn’t live in the community.
Reiser reiterated each campus will still have a supervisor on staff and that this transition is all about saving money.
“It will say in their job description how much time needs to be spent in each community [so it’s fair],” Reiser said.
The college plans to implement video conferencing with Applied Business Technology (ABT) courses with the ultimate goal of students being able to take the course wherever they are.
The same will apply for certain trades that allow students to do their work on simulators.
The hope is by September 2016 to have “smart classrooms” in Prince George, Quesnel, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Burns Lake and, to a lesser degree, Mackenzie, Reiser said.
“Through the Distance Delivery Initiative, apprenticeships won’t have to leave their place of work and spend one day a week studying. [We want to] to reduce costs of delivery and increase students in a section so the institution will become more sustainable,” Reiser said.
The CNC president also touched on what will happen to the family services curriculum at the campuses. The plan is to phase them out after the completion of the current term, he said.
“CNC is not in the business of family services and those services should be transitioned back into the community where they belong,” Reiser said.
The retired chair of the Vanderhoof Library Board, Donna Klingspohn, shared a statistic at the meeting from UNBC.
“The Omineca region has the lowest literacy level in the province,” she said. “We’ve worked hard to raise the literacy level here and if they make decisions solely based on saving dollars they may be cutting programs that are vital to promoting literacy in this region. I just hope they are putting some science behind it,” she said.
Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen said some occupational therapy instructors received layoff notices but the program last year was funded by School District 91 and Nechako Valley Community Services.
“What’s so hard is CNC asked to be the glue for the community and we’re part of it and we’ve embraced it and now to have the college — without consultation — give layoff notices to integral members … we feel jolted. The money is there from the school and community services so I ask why,” he said.
Reiser replied, “ We can’t afford to do this … that’s not our business … it’s Northern Health and Elizabeth Fry’s.”
In the future CNC also plans to move to a performance-based budget so those who perform well will be funded well and those who perform poorly will receive less funding.
Reiser said there is a good chance of a re-occurring deficit if something is not done now.
“We’re trying to work it down but … it’s a challenge. We have demands we want to meet but it’s difficult without money,” Reiser said.