By Andrea Maclean
Associate News Editor
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) is tight for cash. Along with battling approximately $180,000 of debt leftover from last year, the students’ union has yet to pass this years budget — something that should have been done in July.
Until the new budget is passed by the Board of Directors, the RSU is stuck operating on last year’s numbers and can’t relocate money or fund new projects that weren’t included in last year’s budget.
The hold-up is due to disagreement amongst members of the finance committee.
“We are still able to operate financially based on last year’s [budget] but we’re not able to do anything differently,” said Toby Whitfield, vice president finance and services.
In addition to being unable to make changes in spending, the RSU also has less money available to spend. To cover last year’s deficit, funds were taken from savings, decreasing the amount of money used to gain interest from investments. The shortage of cash is creating difficulties for the finance committee.
“We’re in a financial crisis. We don’t have enough money,” said Chandan Sharma, who sits on the finance committee and the RSU Board of Directors.
However, the members of the finance committee have conflicting ideas as to what these new priorities should be.
Whitfield submitted a budget proposal while Sharma and finance committee member George Phu presented their own separate proposal. The two submissions have opposing ideas about where to put money and what to cut in order to avoid an ongoing deficit.
Whitfield said he wants to reduce funding in areas that he believes will affect students the least.
His proposal includes finding ways to cut back on money for social events by approaching promotional companies to help lower the cost of club nights and purchasing — instead of renting — equipment for pub nights. Whitfield’s proposal also increases student group funding to $7,000.
Sharma and Phu’s alternate proposal involves cutting spending in places that they find to be superfluous. Items from the educational issues committee were cut, Sharma said, because they were redundant as money is already paid to the Canadian Federation of Students to address those issues.
Additionally, the alternate proposal looks at increasing income by doubling the revenue created from interest and investments. By monitoring interest rates at banks and moving money to those with highest returns Sharma said the RSU can gain $120,000 from money invested.
This is worrisome for Whitfield.
“I don’t think that it’s realistic,” he said.
“To suggest that we would be able to double this interest [from $60,000 to $120,000] in a year in which we already experienced a deficit — and therefore have less cash — kind of concerns me… To this point I haven’t seen a solid plan on how to reach that expectation on doubling interest.”
Either way, the RSU is looking for ways to cut back costs without reducing service quality for students. If a budget can be agreed upon by the finance committee, it will likely pass at the next board of directors meeting near the end of the September.