University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) councillors and students-at-large were allowed a glimpse of the fiscal state of the union last week, after council saw dual finance reports – one from vice-president internal Amanda McMullin on UMSU’s overall spending to-date, and one from Justin Paquin on September’s Frosh Music Festival expenditures.
Justin Paquin: Frosh Music Festival failed to break even
Paquin, an event producer at Paquin Entertainment Group and former vice-president internal for UMSU, was contracted by the executive to oversee the organization of Frosh Music Festival. According to Paquin’s report at council, the festival failed to break even, instead landing nearly $150,000 over budget.
According to Paquin, festival planning was running at its projected budget until a last-second ultimatum from headliner Childish Gambino forced a switch to a two-day format.
“The artist [Gambino] provided an option: ‘either I’m not coming, or I can come on Saturday,’” Paquin told council.
“The reason that this event was not able to break even was because of a cancellation by the headlining artist.”
Minutes from a Sept. 23 council meeting indicate that the Frosh Music Festival budget was not approved by UMSU Council as a whole, despite the fact that bylaw 2400.13 indicates that only UMSU Council can “approve expenditures of any value.” That same bylaw stipulates that the executive and finance committees can only approve expenditures of up to $5,000 and $15,000, respectively.
At last week’s council meeting, McMullin explained that the festival was projected to bring in $17,000 of revenue.
Because it was not projected as a loss, spending did not require the approval of council.
“In the future, the policies and bylaws do need to be looked at,” McMullin told the Manitoban on the day of the Frosh Music Festival report.
May – September 2013 UMSU finance report
Following Paquin’s address to council, McMullin presented documents detailing the union’s overall spending.
While the operating budget appears to be doing well under some subheadings, it was shown that the union is over budget on legal fees.
Furthermore, the report showed that UMSU was sitting at upwards of a $269,000 net deficit as of Sept. 30. Most of that stems from Frosh Music Festival.
Towards the end of her presentation, McMullin detailed the union executive’s plans to offset the costs of the festival.
According to McMullin, UMSU is saving $140,000, or $10 per student, on Health and Dental Plan costs as a result of switching providers this past September.
“This was a huge initiative that myself and the executive worked on this summer with council. We made sure that we had a good provider, and that all the benefits students had are still being delivered – for a better cost,” McMullin said to council.
The union has also saved $10,500 on personnel costs, and hopes to generate revenue from an agreement with a company interested in using UMSU space.
Students-at-large asked for reports
The two financial reports made to council last week have been anticipated since the Sept. 23 meeting of council, where students-at-large Kyle St. Godard (also a former UMSU councillor) and Gabriel Bako tabled a motion asking for a “full and up-to-date financial report to UMSU Council.” No such report had been given during the month of August, which, according to the motion, was required by UMSU bylaws.
That motion was subsequently passed to the finance committee for review, who recommended it for defeat. McMullin, who sits on the finance committee, said at the Oct. 7 meeting of council that the motion constituted “an attack with unfounded claims against the finance committee and the executive.”
Furthermore, according to McMullin, August financial reports have not been presented to councillors for three years in a row.
On Oct. 7, St. Godard and Bako’s original motion was defeated. An alternative motion mentioning Paquin, however, was put forth by the finance committee and adopted by councillors.