SU inadvertently hits paydirt

By Dean Hetherington

Like finding an extra $20 in a pair of blue jeans, the Students’ Union found they have more money in their 1999/2000 forecasted surplus than initially predicted. The amount, totaling $250,000, is well above the $20,000 forecasted in the last budget. Student leaders say the windfall comes from many changes that took place over last year.

"As far as I know, the reason for the surplus is because of various budgetary features," said University of Calgary SU Academic Commissioner Nic Porco. "In general, we have certain amounts that we budget for commissioner honorariums which hardly ever get all used. They budget the maximum for all commissions but, especially during the summer, less work is done so not all of the money is paid and that creates an excess."

Other reasons for the surplus include extra revenue from concerts, turnover of staff and interest collected from expansion money not yet spent.

"There were a few reasons for the large surplus," said SU Vice-president Operations and Finance Matt Lauzon. "A delay on expansion provided an extra $80,000 that was not expected. There was $45,000 from conference services, commercial lease agreements that increased revenue; we were missing one of our managers, there was some shuffling of staff, $17,000 was generated from concerts that did better than we expected, plus some charges we were expecting never came our way."

According to Lauzon, not all of the surplus is cash because accrual accounting was used. Money from the surplus is currently in a bank account awaiting a destination.

"As far as I know the plans are to hold onto it and put it towards expansion," said Porco.

"People must remember that we are embarking on a large expansion project and we are working with a number of unknowns as a result," added Lauzon. "Each year we are expected to pay the bank roughly $900,000 in loan payments and surpluses are part of that."

The SU acknowledged there have been suggestions about where the money should go.

"Personally, I don’t think it’s right that it should sit there waiting to be used for whatever it does," said SU External Commissioner Oliver Bladek. "I think it should go to students but that’s for the SLC to decide."
Some projects brought up include the removal of GST from books at the used bookstore and a scholarship program.

"I brought it up in council; why can’t we put this money towards a scholarship or something the students can use?" asked Student Academic Assembly Social Sciences Representative Michelle McCann. "I was informed that there are bylaws about how the surplus can be spent. The bylaws prioritize where the SU can spend the surplus. There is a whole list of priorities that can be met and one of them is debt reduction."

The SU noted student response to the surplus has been minimal.

"To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t heard any students come up with any suggestions," said Bladek.

"By all means, if people think we are not offering a service to students that we should be, then bring that forward and hopefully we will hear about that at council," added Lauzon. "I think individuals should be looking at it in that fashion and not pointing to a non-existent pot of money as a reason to initiate a project."

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