The University Students' Council revised its proposed budget for next year, decreasing its projected student fee increase from 4.6 per cent to 4.1 in response to questions from The Gazette.
An updated draft budget presented to the USC’s board of directors on Friday showed an increase of $32.70 to student fees versus the $36.42 increase originally presented to the board in early February. That adds up to a total of $123,901 in overcharged student fees in the original budget.
The four fees that were revised were the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance fee, health plan, health plan admin and bus pass. The USC also revamped the presentation of the budget, scrapping erroneously reported previous budget numbers and providing actuals as reference of historical performance. These changes were a result of questions in the following week from The Gazette about the budget. In an email mistakenly sent to The Gazette, the USC admitted that the first draft of the USC budget was wrong and “was fixed” by The Gazette.
The bus pass fee is increasing by 3.24 per cent as per negotiations, or a flat rate of $7 instead of the previously stated 5 per cent. This oversight was because Jonathan English, the USC's secretary treasurer, thought the health and dental plan and bus pass were lumped under the same 5 per cent increase, which they are not.
The World University Service of Canada fee was misrepresented twice, in the first draft and in the updated budget draft, portrayed as $0.86 and $0.84 respectively when in fact policy states it must be $0.83. English has said this will be updated for future budget revisions.
Another major change was in the presentation of the budget, with the USC removing budget lines from previous years and replacing them with actual results instead. In 2014–15, the USC reported a budget loss of $55,961.59 when in fact the approved budget by council was just a $4,400 loss. In 2015–16, the USC reported the budget as a $105,057.41 profit, when in fact the approved budget was a $142,154 profit. This mistake is even more glaring due to the fact the USC has been reporting in its quarterly updates that it is working within a budget of $142k profit.
English said this year’s budget making and review process has been painstaking and more difficult due to being more honest.
“A lot of the difficulty this year and the reason for some oversight is because we really tried to mandate this idea that we’re going to be as honest as possible and through honesty you then open yourself to making sure that every single penny is right,” he said.
He hopes these are just growing pains that his successor will not have to deal with.
Isaac Jacobi, chair of the board of directors, said the board noticed minor issues related to visual appeal when reviewing the revised budget but nothing related to the content.
“I thought content wise it looked good, I loved what I saw,” Jacobi said about the updated draft.
Council will be discussing the budget at Wednesday night's special meeting. It will have to approve the budget next week, followed by the board of directors.
Jacobi noted that if council and the board cannot both agree on the budget, a task force will be made from members of both groups.