The Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union’s (WLUSU) 2013-14 operating budget was approved last Wednesday by its board of directors, illustrating a 25 per cent decrease in expenses from the 2012-13 year. The budget stated that this is about a $200,000 cut from last year’s figure.
No student services, however, were cut. This was a goal that the Students’ Union had since the budgeting process began two months ago.
“I think we all agreed at the beginning that this was not an option [of cutting services] for us because we’ve seen value that students take away from all these services,” explained Annie Constantinescu, the president and CEO of the Students’ Union.
According to Seth Warren, the VP: finance for the Students’ Union, the management team took a different approach to how WLUSU constructed the budget. For example, the management team altered the way in which funds will be allocated to a particular “end” – the policies that direct the organization and how it should function.
Starting the budget process earlier and removing the interim budget was another change that WLUSU employed this year, as well as taking guidance from last year’s management team, particularly from former president and CEO, Michael Onabolu and VP: finance, Tash Hatkoski.
“It was really nice to have input from the prior year’s management,” said Warren, adding that the interim budgets just created a “buffer” before the actual budget got approved later in the summer.
“Really, when you reduce those ‘buffers,’ then in the future you have a more accurate budget,” he added.
Constantinescu echoed Warren’s remarks by saying, “Having input on what should stay and what we really could afford to cut more or less gives a better and realistic budget.”
Another factor in the 25 per cent decrease in the 2013-14 operating budget was the Students’ Union debt. It was discovered last year that the Students’ Union incurred a debt load of about $4.2 million with the university by 2011-12, mainly due to capital projects that WLUSU undertook over the years.
“Clearly we have been trying to be financially prudent, just because of the situation. We can’t be frivolous with money, it’s just not the case the Union is facing this year,” added Constantinescu. “I think Onabolu and his team did a really good job with explaining that situation to us in the best way possible, so we were prepared to take on what they were building.”
However, she noted that many of the cuts were the responsibility of individual VPs and coordinators.
“A-Team, for example, cut out a lot of it because the next year’s coordinator is trying to focus on smaller budgeted events,” she continued.
Warren added, “It was a really collaborative process, it was more of a ‘ground up’ process, because the coordinators were really serious about it.”
He noted that the overall figure of 25 per cent was not something that the Students’ Union planned for, nor did they dictate a particular figure for each department within the Union.
“There was no department that we said had to make more cuts than others, really. It’s just the way it went about,” he explained. “We didn’t set a target. 25 per cent is just what ended up happening.”
The next Students’ Union board meeting is on June 5.