Concerns raised over 2013-2014 MASU budget

The Mount Allison Student Union (MASU) unveiled its budget for the 2013-2014 school year on Wednesday, March 27. This year’s budget saw changes in both revenue and expenditures. There has been  an increase in student fees. Full time students now pay $164, up from $158 and part time students are going to see an increase of $3.50. Several councillors voiced concerns about the elimination of grants to residences and the honoraria for Students Administrative Council (SAC) Executive who plan to remain in Sackville for the summer.

This year’s budget has seen revenue increase from $1,082,502 to $1,245,760. Vice-President Finance and Operations Pat Losier attributes the increase in revenue to the student health and dental plan. In previous years the University administration had handled insurance for international students, but in this coming year the SAC will be administering insurance for international students. The increase in revenues from the international student’s insurance will be paid out in either insurance premiums or paid back in student reimbursement checks. Losier explained the increases as money in and money out.

During the SAC meeting last Wednesday there was discussion revolving around the fee increase. If student fees are calculated without levies (such as the bike co-op) and only as funds going directly to the MASU, the increase from 2011-2012 is over four per cent. The student fees excluding levies is $142, up from $136 from last year. The MASU constitution states that any increase to student dues over four per cent must be passed by a referenda. The question of whether or not the budget is within constitutional bounds was referred to the MASU judicial committee for interpretation. The judicial committee is expected to have its ruling on the budget by this week’s SAC meeting on 10 April.

The elimination of residence grants also proved to be a contentious issue. Campbell Hall Councillor Alex Economou expressed reservations over eliminating the residence grant, stating that “residence grants are known of, but they’re not something that is well known. Certain cash-strapped residences can really use this money, it’s something that can be built upon.” The residence grant was valued at $1000 and would be given in $125 sums to residences that went through an application process. Councillor Chris Zinck expressed that the residence grant was not well advertised and should remain in the budget. “You really had to be in the loop to be aware of the grant,” said Zinck when asked to comment. Despite these criticisms, Losier said “we should re-evaluate the program and see if it has value. The uptake has been slow in the past.” Losier went on to say that $1000 could go a long way and if the residence grant is not being used the money should not be wasted.

The SAC executive for the 2013-2014 school year are planning on staying in Sackville over the summer months so that the business of the student union will not pause from May to August. This has led to an increase in honoraria to cover executive expenses in Sackville over four months. When asked for comment on the issue, SAC President Pat Joyce said, “what nobody tells you about student politics is that everything happens over the summer.” Joyce expressed enthusiasm over the executive being in Sackville over the summer, saying that lobbying efforts will be greatly improved over the this time period. Vice-President External Affairs Sean McGilley raised questions about how the executive’s performance over the summer will be evaluated. The VP presented a potential solution in the creation of a committee to evaluate the increase in honoraria. “Someone with some objectivity should look at those benchmarks and see if they have been met,” said McGilley with regards to the goals the executive will be setting for itself over the summer.

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