Hart House, the cross-campus centre for student programming and facilities since 1919, proposed a deficit budget for the 2012-13 school year. The calculated costs running the centre for the year have exceeded by $500,000 the revenue generated from student fees, room rentals, and senior memberships to use Hart House. Initiatives to solve the deficit could lead to devastating reductions in services offered by the centre.
Financially independent from the University, Hart House has periodically faced budget problems, with revenue falling in 2009 and again in 2011, mirroring economic crises and recessions nationally.
In order to increase revenue, Hart House raised student fees for the 2012-2013 school year by 5.3 per cent, which translates to $75.43 per full time student. Even with this increase, the total revenue of Hart House dropped by $150,000.
As additional revenue sources, Hart House charges any group except campus clubs to use the centre's facilities, including faculty conferences or seminars. Many alumni also book the space for weddings and memorial services, as the neo-Gothic building remains both at the literal and figurative heart of the University.
Given the building’s historical significance, it is not surprising that the single largest drain on the Hart House budget comes from maintenance costs. The almost century-old building is designated as an official historic site, an honour that requires constant upkeep to ensure its habitability in the modern era.
While an engineering study commissioned by Hart House concluded proper stewardship would require a budget of $2 million, the 2012-2013 budget only allocates $1.3 million for maintenance.
As Bruce Kidd, Warden and Administrative Head of Hart House, lamented, “deferring maintenance” for lack of funds remains a chronic problem for Hart House and U of T in general. Several residences, including Innis, New College, and Chestnut Residences, require major maintenance not included in long-term budgeting. To avoid this pitfall, the Finance Committee for Hart House voted in 2010 to create a Deferred and Major Maintenance reserve with a minimum of $600,000 and 10 percent of each year’s budget added. Hart House anticipates that such planning will reduce the likelihood of future deficits.
Kidd believes “nothing significant” will be cut, and any reductions “will not prevent, stop, or inhibit student initiatives.” However, Kidd spoke of plans to set aside the West Wing for early booking for outside groups, a service previously only open to student clubs. The plan is to “manage space strategically” to generate business without eliminating programming or services.
According to Hart House’s 2012-2013 Ancillary Report, new revenue streams will come from external grants, sponsorships, and revenues from Hart House Farm.
Self described as “a living laboratory of social, artistic, cultural and recreational experiences,” Hart House runs runs the risk of diminish the its capacity to fulfill such a vision if the deficit continues.