DARYL HOFMANN & ANNA-LILJA DAWSONPlace Riel businesses are starting to pay off for the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union, but many of the organization’s own services keep losing money, according to the recently proposed 2012-13 budget.
The USSU is receiving healthy returns from the Place Riel rental spaces currently occupied by Mac’s, Harvey’s, Campus Cove and others. However, Browsers, XL Design & Print and Copy Central have slipped into deficit.
Overall, the union is projected to lose more than $200,000 in the upcoming academic year. That compares to a loss of $442,845 in 2011-12 and a loss of $278,736 in 2010-11. The last time the USSU did not fall short of breaking even was in 2009-10.
“I think it’s not too ambitious to say that in the next couple years we will [have] true, break-even, surplus budgets,” said Reid Nystuen, USSU vice-president operations and finance, who presented the organization’s proposed spending plan at last week’s student council meeting.
With much of Place Riel closed for renovations from 2009 to 2011, the USSU surrendered a large cut of revenue that pushed the organization’s bottom line into the red.
But with the student centre now operating at full capacity, Place Riel is expected to generate about $947,000 next year, with the union pocketing about a half-million after facility costs.
“We’re seeing that even in the first year of it being completed, it is certainly an investment that is paying off,” he said.
The students’ union also has plans to turn around some of its ailing businesses.
Nystuen says Browsers, which has consistently lost money since 2010 because of a decline in book consignment, will undergo a $415,000 renovation in the summer of 2013.
“The Browsers space will have a totally different look,” said Nystuen, who has been preaching for an overhaul of the coffee shop and bookstore since his time as an Edwards School of Business student councillor.
He says the renovation will include new flooring, lighting, entrance and bathrooms. The counters along the north and south walls will be removed and the bar will be set to the back.
The goal is to create a “versatile” space that could be used as a coffee shop, lounge and music venue to compliment Louis’.
Browsers will continue selling books for students, but the display shelves will be portable.
“There are still enough people doing consignment that we feel we should still be offering that, but the way we are going to set it up is such that it is not physically built in,” Nystuen said.
To accommodate the revamped coffee shop, XL Print & Design — which has also slumped financially in recent years — will relocate to Memorial Union Building room 103 for an estimated $24,000. XL is projected to lose just over $7,100 next year.
Since 2008, the USSU’s Copy Central has seen usage nosedive by approximately 50 per cent, from 500,000 copies per year to just less than 250,000 in 2011.
The ability to share notes online, the option of scanning at the library and the fact that instructors regularly upload lectures to PAWS are among the main reasons for the dropoff, said Nystuen.
At the current rate of 15 cents per copy, Copy Central is projected to lose more than $40,000 next year.
Louis’, meanwhile, is expected to turn a small profit of $1,500. And, Louis’ Beach Volleyball — the closest thing the union has to a cash cow — is set to clear just over $27,000.
Last year at this time, the USSU approved $400,000 to be spent on future upgrades to Louis’, which is now scheduled to happen in May.
Renovations and improvements will include new chairs, tabletops, upholstering and lighting. The flooring and paint will also be redone, along with the removal of the booths in the centre of the restaurant to make way for an expanded dance floor.
Student council will discuss and likely vote on the proposed 2012-13 budget at the March 22 meeting.
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf