With winter melting away outside the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union office windows, for Ata Merat, current vice-president operations and finance, it is the time of year to present the annual budget report.
On Mar. 15, the 2016-17 budget was formally put forward in a USSU general meeting. Changes to be seen in the upcoming year will include greater allocations to campus group funding and USSU centres being relocated and renovated. Merat looks back fondly on his time as VP operations and finance and is hopeful for future terms, explaining that a few things are already in the works for incoming executive Emmanauel Barker.
Campus group funding is one area Merat says he has especially focused his efforts on during his time in the USSU. In past years, $40,000 has been allocated to support campus groups that apply for ratification. For the 2015-16 year, more campus groups than ever emerged, with around 150 groups currently ratified.
The new budget includes a funding increase to $50,000, but Merat believes it may be necessary to look for even more funding to allow a strong continued campus culture.
“There is still much to be done, and this might not be enough of a change; hopefully the next budget can raise this support even more,” Merat said.
Merat and the USSU operations and finance committee have also worked out a greater supply of funds for the incoming executive members. An extra $2,000 has been allocated towards projects such as incoming president Kehan Fu’s proposed Welcome Week changes and vice-president Renata Huyghebaert’s push for a campus nap room.
“I’ve looked at the budget for the last three years and we seem to always come over budget here, when you have new executives coming in with new ideas, it’s very hard to find funding for new projects,” Merat said.
However, the 2015-16 year has not seen a continued balanced budget. No longer able to maintain a surplus, a number of factors have contributed to losses incurred by the USSU over the last year.
“We saw a huge loss in football games this past year because the weather was very bad and we did not go to finals. We cannot predict those outcomes. Louis’ provides food and drinks at the stadium, which creates revenue, and we were less successful with that this year,” Merat said.
Still, there are more projects in the works for the USSU. Big changes will come for the various student centres on campus. XL Printing will be moving from the Memorial Union Building to Place Riel, with the Women’s Centre to be taking its current space. Furthermore, the Help Centre will relocate to the current Women’s Centre space and Safewalk will take up the current Help Centre area. All this moving around will of course cost some money, but Merat believes it can all be done for a reasonable sum.
“We’ve asked for some funding from council to do this as well, not much, approximately $30,000; that money will go to moving and painting and making necessary changes at these locations,” he said.
Other initiatives include an arrivals and departures display screen for the Place Riel transit terminal and an app for Safewalk services, which should make it a little easier for students to catch the bus and get around safely.
“The plasma was another big thing on my portfolio, which has been approved and another thing has been the Safewalk app. We’re now in talks with the university and it sounds like they are very willing to get the Safewalk app off the ground,” Merat said.
Merat emphasizes a growing need and potential for external sponsorships to keep student fees from increasing in the future. While he believes the USSU is sitting comfortably enough financially, he sees more improvements to be made.
“Absolutely I would strive for new sponsorships, especially for funding student groups. We do have some sponsorships now like SaskTel and Pepsi, but other funding comes from student fees,” Merat said. “Students are a big stakeholder in this city, advertising has to go through to students.”
Graphic: Jeremy Britz / Graphics Editor