By SARAH VEENSTRA
“What for,” “where to” and “don’t you think” were the top three question starters students had in regards to Conestoga Students Inc.’s 2014/2015 budget.
On Jan. 26, CSI held their annual general meeting (AGM) to discuss and approve last year’s AGM minutes, approve this year’s meeting agenda, approve the auditor for 2015/2016, and approve last year’s budget. The meeting was held in the Sanctuary at Conestoga’s Doon campus and was open to all students.
While students stalked up on free pizza and pop provided by CSI for attendees, CSI board members were put in front of the firing squad: the approximately 20 students who sat around the neighbouring tables.
First on the agenda was a general overview of the audited 2014/2015 budget by Tim Sothern, an assurance specialist and partner at BDO Canada, a company that has worked with CSI for over 20 years.
“Our goal is to check the numbers and processes and make sure that the numbers presented in the annual financial statements are materially correct,” said Sothern. “These statements belong to the (CSI) board and our job is to provide a report on those statements. Part of our auditing procedure is verifying expenditures and tracing it back to documentation. All of the procedures were done to our satisfaction and from our standpoint the organization is in tremendous financial shape.”
The 17-page document showed CSI’s total assets were just over $3 million with $1.9 million of that in easily accessible funds. The report also showed a surplus of approximately $184,000 for the fiscal year-end of April 30, 2015.
The financial statement gave general breakdowns of where the costs and revenue was allocated throughout the year, causing students at the meeting to ask for specifics. CSI president Jeff Scherer and Sothern took turns answering questions based on their knowledge and expertise.
Why is there a revenue under Grand River Transit for $35,000?
“CSI can charge a small fee for being that in-between man, similar to a commission,” said Sothern. “They collected that for GRT, however, CSI only actually took away $835 over that year.”
Why are the costs for orientation split into two categories? (One for $153,000 and another for $279,000.)
“One is for frosh material like swag, while the other is for paying entertainment like for concerts,” Sothern said. “I can assure you both were valid.”
Why are bank charges $19,000?
“Credit card costs, Moneris (a company that is a processor and acquirer of debit and credit card payments) charges and a lot of different transactions through a lot of different accounts held by the organization,” Sothern said.
What is the tech fee for $30,000?
“That fee actually goes directly to IT,” said Scherer. “We have it worked out with IT that a certain portion of that goes to pay for printers and other maintenance. However, that fee doesn’t cover the CSI app.”
What’s covered under the administrative expenses of $1.5 million? Are staffers making an average salary of $60,000? (There are 18 staff members of CSI.)
“What you’re looking at is a totality of salaries, benefits and honorariums,” said Sothern. “We’ve also got government fees rolled in there like Canadian Pension Plan, Employment Insurance expense, workers’ compensation, health tax, parking expenses and professional development. Not to mention, the shuttle bus expenses were rolled into administrative expenses.”
CSI is nonprofit. What will happen to the surplus of $184,000?
“We’re recommended by auditors to have a six- to 12-month reserve in case we were to get into an argument with the college and they decided that they weren’t going to release our funds to us,” said Scherer. “We’re also looking at capital development and anything that could be done in the future. That money could always be used as a down payment or portion of a mortgage. Like for example, the rec centre.”
Scherer also briefly discussed another suggestion made by auditors to create a for-profit company that would allow for the generation of revenue while remaining legal, something CSI is technically not allowed to do as a not-for-profit organization.
“The purpose of this is to grow revenue-generating opportunities that would in turn lower our CSI activity fee,” said Scherer. “This may not be immediate but it is the end goal and dream for the organization. Pita Pit has already been franchised under it but we are formulizing how to continue and expand it in the future.”
This branch is named Conestoga Students Services Inc. and would be completely managed by CSI.
At the annual meeting details about the possibility of a U-Pass for students was also discussed.
The GRT bus pass, which has been in discussion for several months, would see a $120 fee added onto students’ tuition in both the fall and winter terms, allowing students to use their student cards as bus passes for the calendar year.
While CSI is working on exemptions or discounted rates for students with parking passes or students commuting outside of GRT’s district, nothing has come to fruition and no promises are being made.
CSI also announced that their application packages for their board of directors will go out on Feb. 29. There will be more information regarding the application process in the upcoming weeks.