Referendum Questions CSU Elections 2015: What You’ll Be Voting For
A guide to what you’ll be voting for.
New Financial Structure
The CSU will be implementing a restricted fund accounting model, essentially making sure the fees collected for specific purposes go directly to the bodies designed to manage that money.
The Advocacy Centre, the Legal Information Clinic and the Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank (HoJo) would have fees levied in their own name, giving them more control over their own spending.
“From now on they’re really going to have the chance to build their own budgets and have them approved and embark on more projects,”
VP Finance Heather Nagy told The Link. There will also be efforts to have collaborative events between the service centres.
The fees for the Student Space, Accessible Education & Legal Contingency (SSAELC) fund will be reduced by $0.50, but the overall fee will stay at $3.80 per credit.
Non-Academic Clubs: $0.25
Advocacy Centre: $0.30
CSU operations: $1.97
Advocacy Centre: $0.21
Legal Information Clinic: $0.17
CSU Clubs: $0.25
Indexing The Fee Levy
The CSU wants to index its fees to the Consumer Price Index, so it can avoid future deficits.
Last semester an attempt to bring this question to a vote was rejected because it went against CSU policy. Now that changes to regulation have been passed, the vote can finally be made.
According to VP Finance Heather Nagy, there are other associations whose fees are indexed to inflation. She also pointed out that staff members already have their wages tied to inflation.
“A lot of our budget goes to salaries, and the collective agreement is tied to the Consumer Price Index,” Nagy said.
In February, council member Scott Carr noted that raising the fees is an important opportunity to get student input on how they feel about the CSU’s work.
Right now, the CSU expects a deficit of $99,000. The union’s operating account is expected to be drained by July.
Next year’s executive will probably have to take a loan from the Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency fund. The loan will pay for expenses at the beginning of the year, like orientation—which happens before the fees are transferred into the CSU’s account around the middle of the fall semester. Expenses usually add up to $120,000 per month.
Nagy also found an advance of $300,000 from the SSAELC fund in previous years approved for projects related to student space, some of which may have been transferred to the operations account.
“It would seem like maybe the remaining balance of whatever was spent on student space projects—whatever was left over—was not transferred back to the SSAELC,” she said.
“There are discrepancies in minutes,” she added. “So maybe they forgot to bring it back to council to tell them that that money had been put back into the SSAELC [fund].
“If this loan doesn’t come through, we’re in trouble,” Nagy said.
Reggie’s And The Hive Cafe
The CSU wants students to approve a transfer of between $1.2 million and $1.8 million from the SSAELC fund to pay for renovations to Reggie’s and the neighbouring Hive Café.
The range of the costs is not yet known, which is why the question is so open-ended. Reggie’s will hopefully be open by September, and the union wants the flexibility to approve any additional expenses that surpass the $1.8 million range.
The majority of renovations will go towards the new kitchen, which is expected to serve meals, a new glass wall to increase sunlight, and new bathrooms. Separate bathrooms for the café and bar will be created, because legally The Hive and Reggie’s cannot be connected.
Health And Dental Plans
The CSU’s health and dental plan would be increased by $46.93 to $240 per undergraduate student (Health: $97 and Dental: $143).
The idea is to raise the ceiling of the fee—which goes towards paying the health insurance through the Alliance pour la Santé Étudiante au
Quebec—so that it doesn’t have to be raised for the next five to ten years.
The last increase took place in 2005.
Health And Dental Plan Admin Fee (Special By-Law K)
Students who opt into the CSU health plan will pay the above fees for their premiums, in addition to an administrative fee of $1.50 for the health plan and $1.50 for the dental plan.
The legitimacy of the fee was questioned by councilor Scott Carr, who pointed out that the CSU doesn’t spend enough time on the administration of the health plans to actually merit $3 per student signed up.
“It’s been known for the past couple of years that this is highly problematic and unethical,” said Nagy. “But our team felt skeptical about abolishing the fee completely.”
Based on the number of students who bought into the insurance plan last year, the administration fee would raise $50,000. Half of that money will be put into reserve in case the collected premiums aren’t enough to cover the costs for the year. According to Nagy, the accumulated reserve fund helps stretch out the insurance rates an extra year before the CSU has to ask students to increase rates.
She added that the extra fee pays off any extra work done by the CSU staff in administering the insurance. In the winter semester, for example, students often have trouble opting out of the plan—issues that the staff needs to fix.
This fee has varied from $5 to $10 per student, at the discretion of the CSU. The new by-law will set the limit at $3.
The CSU wants a clear position from students to denounce the privatization of social services, namely in the educational sector, as a result of budget cuts.
At the last by-election, students voted in favour of the CSU taking an official stance against austerity (hence the anti-austerity campaigns around campus).
CSU President and chair of the Yes committee Benjamin Prunty said this question will help the union take a clearer stance on representing students, but no plans will be in place until the next executive team takes over.
Concordia has had to deal with a $16 million cut from the provincial government this year.
“The university can pretty much only turn to the private sector for additional revenues,” Prunty said in an email.
“Fundraising from the private sector will not make the university more efficient; it will only be a departure from its mandate to benefit the public at large,” he added.
This year’s CSU team has been developing a plan to build a greenhouse on the Loyola campus.
The new greenhouse would mirror the one on the 13th floor of the Hall building, a year-round student-run initiative.
According to a feasibility study presented in January, a greenhouse could potentially be installed on the roof of the Student Centre building (where The Hive is), adjacent to it, or free-standing.
It would contribute to the union’s goal of promoting locally sourced food.
Students will vote on whether or not to prioritize a new greenhouse as a student space initiative, thereby qualifying it for financing through the Student Space Accessible Education and Legal Contingency fund.
“Getting feedback from the membership directly on projects throughout their development is beneficial since it ensures students still want this project to happen,” VP Sustainability Jessica Cabana said.
“It will help the project to know how much students want to see this new innovative Greenhouse at Loyola become a reality,” Cabana added.
Students will vote on whether to move $1.85 million from the SSAELC fund to a new pool of money dedicated to a student-housing cooperative.
The new Popular University Student Housing (PUSH) fund will loan money to finance a co-op and future projects once the loan is paid back.
The housing co-op will have 100 to 150 new rooms for Concordia students with rent set at about $450 per month.
Social investment group the Chantier de l’économie sociale has promised to invest up to $1.5 million in the housing project.
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