Orientation Over-Budget Once Again

Unexpected Costs Thwart CSU Pledge To Meet $155,000-Budget

The Concordia Student Union’s fall Orientation went over budget due to federal taxes on foreign musical acts and buying last-minute supplies. Photo Brandon Johnston

In spite of announcing an anticipated surplus and the first potential profit ever for Reggie’s student bar, another promise made by this year’s Concordia Student Union won’t be kept as the fall Orientation was over-budget, again, by almost $19,000.

“The best way to explain why Orientation was so over-budget is because we had a lot of students turn out,” said VP Finance Scott Carr.

Carr delivered a report to CSU council last week on the financial state of the union, indicating the union currently held a surplus of $591,527 and projected a surplus of $9,699 over 2013-2014.

However, despite telling The Link multiple times since last June that Orientation would not go over budget like years past, he also admitted unforeseen costs and taxes on international entertainment acts—discovered after the budget had been set—made this impossible.

“We had a lot of buffers, but there are a lot things that just aren’t planned for, which comes from a lot of students coming out and a lot of things that we need to then account for because we don’t have enough stock,” he said.

Financial records obtained from the CSU list Orientation as costing $173,190, whereas it was projected to cost $155,000 at the beginning of the academic year.

According to Carr, the two-week welcome-back extravaganza also generated $127,448 in revenues, largely from tickets sold to Froshapalooza—the festival-style electronic and dance music concert in Parc Jean-Drapeau headlined by artists Dada Life and Tommy Trash.

But because of high attendance, employees had to work longer and more food and supplies needed to be purchased at the last minute, explained VP Student Life Katrina Caruso, who oversaw Orientation plans.

“We didn’t entirely realize how much we were spending while we were doing it, because it’s hard to keep track of everything,” said Caruso. “It wasn’t like Scott was sitting at the office crunching numbers.”

Federal taxes on foreign entertainment artists were also not known nor factored into the budget upon booking Dada Life and Tommy Trash, Carr and Caruso also said.

“You know, last minute extra stuff happens, and it was worthwhile [to incur the expense] to keep all the events running smoothly.” _—CSU VP Student Life Katrina Caruso

“The overall cost of the artists was expensive and then we add taxes on top of that which make it more expensive, and those are large costs we need to incur,” said Carr. “So that led to a large part of the budget [being taken up] but it was also the fact there were a lot of people that came [to events].”

When asked how the tax on international artists was not accounted for—the union usually books headliners from around the world every year for Orientation—Carr said his upcoming six-month financial review is looking at addressing such oversights so this can’t happen again.

As for Caruso, she says that in retrospect she would have considered booking only one headlining artist from outside Canada instead of two, and also would have looked to cut costs by trimming down Orientation in other ways.

“I think, in general, Orientation could be a few less days and that would have saved us some money,” she said.

“It ran for two weeks […] but some people, myself included, feel that Orientation could be more successful if it’s just one week,” she continued, adding that it would allow the union to do away with less successful events and focus only on activities that appeal to more students.

However, Caruso added she still thinks spending more is worthwhile when students are coming out to reap the benefit.

“I think it’s worth it. I think ideally, costs attributed to Orientation are worth [spending] because the CSU can reach its members,” she said.

“You know, last minute extra stuff happens, and it was worthwhile [to incur the expense] to keep all the events running smoothly.”

A previous version of this article erroneously stated the union was projecting a surplus of $591,527 over the 2013-2014 academic year, when that amount is the current surplus of revenues over expenses for the CSU; the actual projected end-of-year surplus is $9,699. The Link regrets the error.