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SUS asks for changes to student fees in referendum



The Student Union Society’s (SUS) second referendum question was re-announced Friday with a $2.50 deduction in the requested SUS fee increase. The question was initially retracted from the referendum due to lack of clarity and reassessment of SUS revenue.

The question clarifies the requested change in fee structure, asking for a decrease of $20 per year to the health and dental fees, a decrease of $5.37 per semester to the U-Pass fee, and an increase of $6.50 per semester to the general SUS fee.

Previously, the question had requested a $9.00 increase in the general SUS fee, which SUS said they decreased after reviewing revenues from the current semester.

Drafting of the referendum question began this February. Gurvir Gill, president of SUS, did not comment in time for publication on the timing of the revenue assessment.

The questions requests a series of three fee changes. According to the press release sent out by SUS, the decrease in the health and dental fee is due to a low ratio of claims to premiums. The decrease in the U-Pass fee is stated to be due to the the reduction in fitness costs after initial startup costs for the Qube fitness room and programs in Chilliwack, the fitness options that replaced the Cheam Leisure Centre passes for Chilliwack students.

SUS is asking for an increase in SUS fees, according to the press release, because of the upcoming minimum wage increases and to increase hosted events, such as concerts, advocacy campaigns, and cultural programming. SUS has also increased its full-time staff members from two to six. In addition to the executive director, SUS has three senior managers: an events and programming manager, a receptionist, and a manager of finance, facility operations, and services and marketing.

These three fees are separate, and only go to funding programming associated with that particular fee: funds collected from the U-Pass fee cannot be used to hold concerts. Gill did not comment in time for publication on why students are not able to vote on each proposed fee changes separately.

Due to the retracement of the first question, students will vote on the referendum in two parts. The question stated above will be voted on April 15 to 24, and the second question from the original referendum announcement will be voted on from April 1 to 4.

The second question of the referendum asks students for annual increases to SUS and SUB fees by the average CPI percentage posted by Stats Canada each January. In the question, it states that by indexing the fee it would prevent SUS’s revenue from decreasing in value each year.

Part of the reasoning stated for the indexing, according to the press release, was a 25 per cent increase over the past three years in the operations of the SUB.

“We are looking into why they charged us this amount but that is on UFV,” Gill said over email.

UFV’s finance department clarified over email that the 25 per cent increase was due to four years of inflation and SUS’s request for UFV to take over janitorial services for the SUS-run portion of the SUB.

This question also contains a mathematical error, claiming that SUS fees would have seen a 51 cent increase each year for the last three years following annual CPI increases. The statement averages the CPI percentages from 2016 to 2018 and doesn’t account for compounding percentages, which when taken into account would result in a total SUS fee increase from 2016 to 2018 of $1.62, or 54 cents per year.

The statement also only does the math for one fee proposed in the increase. In 2018, students would have seen a fee increase of $1.50 total for the SUS and SUB fees to be paid semesterly. Over the three years calculated in the statement, students would have seen a total SUB and SUS fee increase of $3.51 to be paid semesterly.

Gill said SUS would be reviewing the math in this statement. The board gave final approval of the referendum question, but Gill said other members of the SUS staff did have the opportunity to review the question. He was unsure if the financial department had the opportunity to review this aspect of the referendum question before it was published.  

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