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College money transfer leaves OPSEU seeing red

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | News | March 30th, 2009

A Fanshawe College faculty Union member, represented by Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is not impressed with Fanshawe College transferring money into a reserve fund held by the college's administration.

As reported last month there were definite warning signs as to why Fanshawe College falls short $6.5 million for its upcoming 2009/10 academic year, according to Emily Marcoccia, Manager of Marketing and Communications at Fanshawe College.

The college currently experiencing a short fall has OPSEU faculty questioning if money transferring during this economic time was the right thing to do.

“I was quite surprised with what I saw,” said Paddy Musson, head of OPSEU Local 110, in respect to the amount of money transferred.

“I emailed the accountant about whether or not what I saw was wrong,” adding that the information released came through a Freedom of Information request.

Musson, who represents more than 650 Fanshawe faculty members, counselors and librarians, said statements clearly indicate a transfer on the college's behalf was made and put into a reserve fund meant for buildings and facilities.

“The Capital Infrastructure Reserve Fund... was created and approved by the Board of Governors in 2005. The Board felt that as the College got older it should have a reserve fund to use in the event that a major piece of capital needed to be repaired or replaced without warning, such as a main boiler (which could cost up to a million dollars) or we faced unexpected repairs on a building (such as a student residence),” said Marcoccia. “The College strongly supported this is very important that a College our size have such an emergency fund...”

“The (college) transferred $6 million from operating to capital,” said Musson.

According to Marcoccia, the history of the Capital Infrastructure Reserve Fund is as follows.

- March 31, 2005 - $3 million was put in it;
- March 31, 2006 $1 million;
- March 31 2007, $1.4 million;
- March 2008 $600,000 for a total of $6 million dollars in the last four years.

As you can see — “this is not a new fund, nor has this ever been an issue before by the Board,” emphasized Marcoccia.

Musson added the college is faced with a “10 per cent increase in enrolment for the coming year and the college is experiencing a financial crisis.”

Marcoccia stated there would be “no impact on students.”

Musson believes during the current economic climate, money transferring was not a smart move on behalf of college administrators.

She also said that when it comes to public money there has to be transparency in the system. Information needs to be released to the public. Adding, money would have been better spent on improving student to teacher ratio at the college and not transferring the money into capital.

“The college is proactive and innovative; and as stewards of public funds, we (the college) take that role very seriously and all of our budget decisions are made with students in mind,” added Marcoccia.

Past college documents revealed that during the early 1990's the college also faced similar financial difficulties, which resulted in full-time staff being cut nearly half.
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