So, the final appeal has been addressed, ordering Memorial University’s Student Union to pay $360,000 in property tax to the City of St. John’s. This is obviously devastating, yet not something that we should hold over the heads of the current MUNSU executive; this the result of long lasting battle which has been unfortunately inherited by the Executive Director of Finance, past and present. However, in turn, it does provide a great opportunity for the current Executive, specifically Director of Finance Travis Perry, to reassess union finances and deal with the impending crisis.
Perry has previously stated that he is hopeful for students to take no burden of this lawsuit—despite, you know, the wages provided to their Executive as they find a solution to this problem—and that he aims to negotiate a payment plan with the City so that it is as quick and painless as possible for the student population.
This, however is questionable, and will remain in that regard until more information becomes available. Will the City tack on interest or additional late fees within this agreement? Will they just simply succumb to the student’s demands? We will have to wait and see.
However, one can only hope that such uncertainty is being thought of as the upcoming operating budget is prepared. Furthermore, until more information is known, it perhaps in the best interest of the Student’s Union to consider cuts in areas in which the student dollar is already being wasted. This includes not only the excessive campaign posters within the campus—I think we all get, “education is a right”—but perhaps look into cutting the ratification money given to societies.
As union members, we are funding societies which clearly only a small population of the student body is availing of. While in theory, having these groups funded, especially in an equal manner, seems like the “nice” thing to do. But in such harsh economic times for the Union, it does not seem to be the wisest. Instead, we should be switching to a one-time ratification bonus for new societies instead of the reoccurring payments they already receive. There are two primary reasons for this:
First, having an initial ratification payment would allow a society the ability to get themselves on their feet, and have money to put towards further fund-raising initiatives, such as mixers and the ever-so-popular bake sales, which can keep them going Instead, we are promoting a world where the clubs can spend their money without consequence, as the union continuously bails them out every semester.
Secondly, the Union already provides clubs and societies many benefits that are not explicitly financial: they provide them with free rooms and spaces on campus, access to a delicious (and slightly terrifying) popcorn machine, giving them a regular society hang-out, offering them grants for certain events and travel, and many other benefits which helps promote student life on campus. I do not believe that cutting this fee would have such a negative affect on campus life as they would seem to suggest, and thus is a great opportunity for them to consider.
It is undeniable that MUNSU has already faced their sheer of economic issues, and you can point towards the Breezeway as a clear example of this. However, things are starting to look not-as-horrendous, with a slight reduction of this deficit despite some slightly counter-productive measures—see: the supporting stance on the Labatt Strike. Unfortunately, this newly inherited debt is yet another issue for them to face, and thus taking drastic measures, such as cutting these society fees, is a step in the right direction to ensuring a proper financial future for our Students’ Union.