The University Students' Council (USC) fee charged to students will see a decrease of $6.68 in the upcoming 2017-18 school year as a result of savings from the occupancy fee.
According to USC secretary treasurer Isaac Jacobi, the occupancy fee is “a fee collected by the USC and paid to Western to cover all of the space that [the USC] occupy in the University Community Centre (UCC).”
The occupancy agreement was signed in May 2010 between the Western Board of Governors (BoG), the University’s top financial body, and the USC. The agreement was signed to govern the occupancy and use of the UCC as the building is owned by Western but is rented out by the USC.
The decrease in the occupancy fee brings it to $60 from the previous $66.68.
Jacobi said that because Western does not give the USC an exact amount for the occupancy in time for fee collection, the USC consistently projected the amount at a five per cent inflation and charged students as such.
However, the USC’s projected amount is slightly more than what Western charged them — which is around a two or three per cent inflation.
The decrease in the fee for the upcoming year was brought about so students are charged a more accurate rate, which is reflective of what Western actually charges the USC, according to Jacobi.
According to Jacobi, the occupancy issue was on his radar since the summer.
It was further helped along when the Gazette presented the agreement to the USC through a Freedom of Information request filed with Western. The document detailed spaces in the UCC which Western doesn't charge a fee for to the USC. While the USC signed the original document in 2010 and renewed five years, the current executive did not have access to it.
Jacobi said he believes better "knowledge management" and transition of information can help avoid such issues in the future.
How was occupancy charged by the USC?
In the past, the USC took the total amount charged to them by Western and allocated it across all USC services, including spaces that Western did not charge for.
These spaces include campus media spaces including the Gazette and CHRW offices, common use student spaces — including the former club space and the USC executive offices.
The occupancy fee has also been removed for operations such as the Purple Store. By charging revenue generating units an occupancy fee, it lowered their profits while not actually going towards the operation's own rent.
How will it be charged going forward?
Moving forward, instead of dividing the occupancy amount among different USC spaces and services, the lump-sum amount will be charged directly in one fee. The USC 2017-18 budget removes occupancy expenses from all units in the building and the amount will be paid as a whole — $60.
How will the USC be more accurate in their projection?
"It’s all about communication and building those relationships with the people that actually set the inflation rate at Western," Jacobi said. "Trying to make sure that we have open dialogue with them earlier in the year and can forecast an accurate inflation."
How will over-collecting in previous years be accounted for?
“We have to analyze and see the exact amount that was over-collected — in the past some years we were under-collecting and some over-collecting. We have to look and see if its netted out and try and go from there,” Jacobi said.
How will the USC better predict the incremental Western rate moving forward?
Jacobi is unsure whether Western’s systems allow them to give an exact amount for occupancy to the USC earlier on when the student fee has to be set. He emphasized the importance of open communication so it can be gauged whether Western thinks the fee will be charged at three per cent or five per cent.