Re: "Time to question everything about the USC budget"

To the editor:

Today’s Gazette editorial decrying the University Students’ Council budget is certainly not the first time our campus newspaper has critiqued the financial planning document. Each year, there’s typically some exchange between The Gazette’s editorial board and USC executives on the budget’s merits (see former USC president Matt Helfand’s letter to the editor).

What’s troubling, however, is that The Gazette fails to fully understand its process and intent.

First, that the budget has been reviewed over five months. Yes, the creation of the budget is certainly a lengthy process, but the months of September to December are spent primarily in consultations with USC departments. These departments then submit capital plans and supplementary information over the holiday break. Those pieces come together in late January to form a physical copy of the budget.

I refrain from using the phrase “finished copy” because it really is not a complete document. The budget then goes through review and re-review from several bodies, where mistakes or inconsistencies are discovered.

In fact, it’s significantly better to note these discrepancies now in the budget approval process rather than throughout the following year. For instance, the 2015–16 budget failed to account for $3,000 in honorarium for three coordinator positions. This year, in order to keep positions that were already hired, we needed to find the money elsewhere — something that former executives, councils or The Gazette didn’t notice. Small mistakes like these are common.

Why? Because at the end of the day, this is a student-run organization with students at the core of decision-making. Annual turnover and varying degrees of experience are prices to pay for meaningful student leadership.

What’s encouraging to note about this budget is its readability. A goal for this year’s executive was to create a budget that is transparent and understandable. For the first time, the USC budget has been released prior to its presentation, giving students time to review it. If this transparency means The Gazette and other students are able to critically engage with the USC’s budget, then so be it. It is better to work together and improve the budget than to hurriedly pass a document shrouded in confusion.

— Sophie Helpard

USC President