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UNBC board delays budget approval

Approval of the University of Northern B.C.'s 2015-16 operating budget will be put off until May as additional scrutiny is given to the financial plan.
The gallery in the Senate Chambers took part in the UNBC board meeting.

Approval of the University of Northern B.C.'s 2015-16 operating budget will be put off until May as additional scrutiny is given to the financial plan.

The information was compiled in mid-February, explained UNBC's vice president of finance and administration Eileen Bray.

"Since that time, the estimates we've prepared require additional work," she said at Friday afternoon's board of governors meeting. "What was proposed in February was a best-case scenario."

UNBC's board of governors is responsible for overseeing the school's financial matters. The well-attended meeting was the group's first sitting since a labour dispute with the school's faculty association shut down the university for two weeks earlier this month.

During the meeting, university president Daniel Weeks conveyed the sense of frustration with the budget process that he heard at the sitting of the school's senate earlier in the week.

"I think it's important the board understand one of the primary issues and emotions felt at the meeting was the palpable issue of trust - trust with respect to administration and, I would respectfully say, a trust issue extends to the board as well," said Weeks.

And while he didn't personally agree with all the issues raised at the senate meeting, he did agree that there could be a way to make the university's budget easier to understand.

Weeks proposed the board look at initiatives that he has seen at other schools, such as public sessions for the university community to learn about various line items or budget presentations that go into greater detail about the financial plans.

"The work of the vice president, finance, and her staff meets all the standards that are set forth in accounting practices that are performed both at this institution and in Canada for that matter, certainly British Columbia," said Weeks.

"But that doesn't cloud over the fact that it's difficult to understand these documents."

Friday's meeting also included a brief update for the board on the status of the school's negotiations with the faculty association.

The two sides wrapped up their meetings with a mediator on Wednesday and are awaiting the final report.

"It would be imprudent to speculate further," said John Young, UNBC's interim vice-president, academic, and provost.

Weeks was optimistic that UNBC would come out on the other side of the dispute as a sturdier unit.

"For those of you that know me, I have a personal interest in swords and weaponry. And a great sword is constructed by heating up the metal and beating on it and then cooling it down," Weeks said. "And I think we've been heated up, we've taken a bit of a beating and now it's time to cool down and we'll be a much stronger institution going forward. So I encourage the board to do its part."