Members present at the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) 2017 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 30 voted to approve the 2016–2017 audited financial statements and appoint a new auditing firm.
UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh said the two most notable parts of the financial statements were that the UTSU ran a surplus of $23,521 in 2017 and that prepaid expenses increased from $1.4 million in 2016 to $9.1 million in 2017. A large part of the prepaid expense increase was due to a new line in the expenses, called “Restricted cash – health and dental premium payable,” which amounted to approximately $7.7 million.
According to Singh, the difference in the prepaid expenses stemmed from the union’s decision to switch to a different health and dental care plan provider after it was discovered in 2015 that the UTSU had lost more than $1.6 million over the course of six years with their previous provider.
The switch to the new provider signified a change in the payment schedule, which accounts for the difference in prepaid expenses.
Members also voted to switch from the auditing firm Yale & Partners LLP to Sloan Partners LLP. Singh said that the switch was made because it is “unwise for any corporation to stick with the same auditing firm for an extended period of time, usually more than five years.” Singh said that the UTSU had been with Yale & Partners for nine years.
“We’ll be paying slightly more than we are now, but [Sloan and Partners is] a very reputable firm and we’re happy to hopefully be working with them.”
Both Singh and UTSU President Mathias Memmel stressed that the UTSU was under significant financial pressure and needed to downsize. This sentiment played a crucial role in shaping the discussion of other issues on the table, such as the motion to merge the positions of Vice-President External and Vice-President University Affairs into Vice-President Advocacy.
Memmel and Singh both believe the UTSU to be in a financial crisis.
Memmel emphasized that large expenses in the future, namely the Student Commons project, would place the union under severe financial pressure, and that the UTSU needed to cut down on other expenses.
Memmel said that the costs of paying a manager of the Student Commons, as well as security and other operation expenses, in addition to any tenancy agreements, results in a carry-forward deficit of $3 million in 10 years for the project. “That’s the issue. I’m not making it up,” he said. “It’s not a fabrication; it’s based on simply math.”
According to the UTSU’s financial projections and analysis for 2017–2027, the Student Commons is estimated to run a deficit for the next 11 years, peaking at approximately $2.3 million in 2029.
Keeping the cost of the Student Commons in mind, Memmel and Singh repeatedly urged members to vote for downsizing.
“If you’re going to talk about how to keep the lights on, then do work to keep the lights on,” said Singh.