The King’s Students’ Union (KSU) has proposed a balanced budget as costs shift to online programming. There will be no significant cuts to spending or abnormal change in membership fees.
Finance Vice-President Nick Harris initially expected a drop in revenue due to a potential lower enrolment caused by COVID-19. The actual enrolment numbers came out to 885 students (825 full-time, 60 part-time), a mere 6 below predicted 891 students (832 full-time, 59 part-time). Harris is responsible for planning the KSU budget, and says he was relieved to see these numbers.
Membership fees will increase from $172.92 for full-time students ($86.46 part-time) to $177.06 for full-time ($88.53 part-time). This increase of around two and a half per cent is an annual increase that allows the KSU to raise their full-time wages regularly so they do not fall below the rising cost of living.
There will be $13,585 available to societies for funding events and society activities this year, down slightly from $13,984 last year. Paper funding request forms will be replaced with a virtual equivalent to better suit societies during remote-learning.
“We really needed to modernize the system,” Harris said to The Watch in an interview. “I talked to people in similar positions at other schools, and I am confident that what we are releasing will work.”
After originally announcing this in the Sept. 13 KSU council meeting, Harris confirmed that the system would use a Google Form that would be “essentially the same as the old funding request form.” Harris will release the form before weekly finance committee meetings, and the committee members will have all requests already formatted.
“I have set it up so societies can add files for pictures of receipts, budgets, or anything else that may be needed,” says Harris. He also says that, in terms of accessibility, paper copies will still be available upon request.
The KSU will not be pulling back on funding for their programming, like events, campaigns, and outreach. The Healthy Active Living program created last year will continue with online material, but the KSU has not yet said when students will be able to apply for funding to host events.
Some lines of the budget were cut directly, including the ‘Travel and Conferences’ line. This line is typically slotted for the CFS National General Meeting, which has been transitioned online this year.
If students are looking for ways to cut down on their fees, they may consider opting out of some levied societies. Harris confirmed that all Dalhousie operating societies have opt-out processes, including CKDU, South House, WUSC, NSPIRG, the Dalhousie Bike Centre, and the Loaded Ladle.
Students can contact individual societies to find how they can opt-out of their levy.
The Union also brought in a surplus of $8,847.00 this year—money that is earmarked to go into health and dental after student consultation. “Student Unions came together to advocate for a repayment of some rates due to COVID-19,” says Harris. “We thought it would be unfair for students to pay into, say, dental coverage, when they had no real opportunity to use it.”
Harris also confirmed that the Union was obligated to consult with students to see how this could be used. “This surplus could go towards a fund for braces, cosmetic surgeries students may need done, or simply paying off some of a portion of health plan dues—it is up to students how the money will be spent,” says Harris. Consultations happen in the Spring with the draft budget.
The KSU has bi-weekly Council meeting every second Sunday at 5 p.m. Atlantic.
Check out their Facebook for scheduling and more information.
Funding for positions through the Pandemic
A detail left out of the budget is funding given to the Union by the University over the summer to hire more staff on—around $2000 was paid to executive members to help supplement in meetings, the creation of social media outreach, and more.
The Union had originally pitched multiple staff positions they could create with university funding, but King’s denied them. Instead, the university confirmed funding for executive members to work additional hours over the summer.
When asked about this funding over the summer, a member of the KSU executive said that they had planned to mention it at their first council meeting. This detail was omitted from the reports of the executive in their Sept. 13 council meeting.
This funding was also omitted from the 2020/2021 budget.
It is worth noting also that last year’s union hired position, the ‘UHP for Accessibility’, worked over their original position deadline to ensure that students would be met with a clear and accessible start to the year. When Harris was asked if the individual in this position would get compensated for this work, he was unsure.
The books and records of the Union were opened prior to the KSU Fall AGM, and students had the opportunity to look at the ledger and unaudited financial statements of the Union (Harris clarified that, as the KSU is small, they are not legally obligated to have an audited statement).
The records mainly consisted of repayment to executives, society funding, and other run-of-the-mill financial dealings.
One of the most interesting details in the ledger is that the KSU paid workers of the Galley and the Wardroom for around 5 hours of work after the closure of campus due to COVID-19.
“It was the right thing to do,” says Harris. “We needed to make sure [the employees] would have a bit of help during the start of the pandemic, and I stand by the decision that was made.”