At TRUSU’s annual general meeting on Jan. 28, the Students’ Union promised transparency to its members. At the very same meeting, they announced that the Students’ Union building, an extension of the Campus Activity Centre, is currently running a deficit.
Though the deficit of about $13,000 is small compared to the $1.6 million in assets the building has, TRUSU Executive Director Nathan Lane said the problem is one that needs to be tackled sooner rather than later.
“What actually happened to us was our projections on our utilities for last year were just out by a little bit and that is why the deficit happened in one year. I anticipate we will correct that for next year,” Lane said.
Currently, the Students’ Union obtains $250,000 a year from its members for their building fund, yet the cost of running and maintaining the Students’ Union building as well as the cost of the equipment within it, sits at $371,000 annually. This means, in order for TRUSU to keep up with its payments and clear the building of its deficit, it must transfer money from its operating fund.
“Essentially, the difference between the revenue in the building fund and the cost of amortizing the building is going to be transferred out of the operating fund. So when our payments are done, the building fund will also have no deficit,” Lane said. “Which means any future money will be savings for repairs or maintenance, because this building is now getting to be twenty years old.”
Lane expects that it will take approximately five to six years to completely pay off the building. Because they are transferring money from the operating fund directly to payments being made in the building fund, students of the university will not have to pay additional fees to cover the cost.
Lane also noted that the Students’ Union had expected the near-twenty-year-old facility to run a deficit eventually.
“It is not uncommon for a building fund to go into a big cash deficit and then into a surplus. Because what happens is while you are making the payments the fund goes into deficit and when the payments are complete, the fund catches up,” he said.
Though the Students’ Union has said that there are other options to consider, they will most likely stay the course.
“We could pay off the building quicker by transferring more from the operating fund, and making advanced payments,” Lane said. “But the challenging thing is that if we start to do that, then we start to have to look for money in the operating fund when it’s needed elsewhere.”
This, however, does not mean that the Students’ Union has been lax in speeding up the process. In a bid to decrease operating costs, the Students’ Union partnered up with TRU Environment and Sustainability last year to install solar panels on the Students’ Union building’s rooftop.
“If we can reduce the cost of our utilities and work to negotiate a better janitorial contract, those savings in the operating fund we can transfer to the capital fund and essentially speed up the process,” Lane said.
Alternatively, Lane said that the Students’ Union could just let the building pay itself off. In this case, the building would build up a deficit, which it would pay off in time. However, TRUSU aims to clear the deficit before another generation of students inherits it.