Proposed budget prepares for difficult year ahead

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Stephen Lecce

Shaun Ding

"WHY YES, THE GREEN REALLY DOES BRING OUT MY EYES." University Students' Council President Stephen Lecce delivered his State of The USC address to council yesterday. Among other topics, Lecce discussed the budget, which council will vote on at their next meeting on March 18.

The University Students’ Council will be doing “more with less” next year, according to USC VP-finance Matt Kington.

The USC’s proposed operating budget was unveiled during last night’s council meeting and projects reduced profits for retail services and an increase to student fees of $14.52.

“To get to a balanced budget, we’ve had to make cost cuts across the board,” he said. “But you’re not going to see the services getting cut to the point where they can’t sustain themselves.”

Some of the more drastic budgetary changes are for retail services, which are projected to make almost $70,000 less next year. Profits generated by these businesses fund student programming and keep student fees low, according to Kington.

“To be quite frank, in the next year especially, with the decrease in traffic in the [University Community Centre], it’s going to be a hard year for businesses,” he said.

The Used Book Store and Western Film are two USC-run operations projected to face drops in revenue.

“It’s a declining industry,” Kington said of the Used Book Store, adding WebCT and course packs are detracting from sales. “The Book Store also went into direct competition with the Used Book Store, so they’re starting to steal some of our business.”

Western Film is struggling to remain competitive against a shorter turnaround time for DVD releases. The theatre will be relying on concession sales more than ticket sales for its small projected profit next year, Kington said.

“Ever since we’ve built the concession stand, our concession sales have skyrocketed and our actual movie sales have plummeted.”

While the recent USC referendum offered renovations and improvements to USC retail operations as part of a renewed strategic plan, students were unwilling to pay the $95 fee.

“The budget would have been as tight as it is now even if we would have gone forth [with the renovations], but the good thing is there would have been a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

The new budget proposes $90,000 to prepare for the next renovation referendum in 2011. The USC intends to work with architects and invest in marketing and research for a more successful referendum in two years.

With less revenue generated from its retail services, the USC’s Student Life department is cutting its speaker budget from $50,000 to $25,000.

The reduced budget will not affect the number of speakers the USC brings to campus, Kington explained.

“That is a direct representation of increased ticket sales for non-students as a means of generating money to pay for a public speaker series. So while the amount of money being spent on speakers by the Student Life department may actually increase, the cost to students won’t.”

The budget needs to be passed by the council before facing approval from Western’s Board of Governors.

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