Montreal, News

AVEQ says that projected budget deficit was overestimated

The Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ) is a provincial-level student association designed to represent Quebec university students. It serves as a way to increase bargaining power provincially and with universities. It has recently publicly released its 2016-2017 budget, projecting that the association will record a revenue of $228,690 and run a $73,597 deficit. Their cash holdings are estimated to fall 70 per cent this year. Currently, AVEQ’s largest expenses include staff and executive salaries–which run between $61,118 and $77,599–administrative costs, and their mobilization and associative development budget. Other large expenses include $10,000 to $12,000 in accounting and legal fees.

AVEQ is a provincial-level student association designed to represent Quebec university students. It was formed after the Fédération Étudiante Universitaire du Quebec (FÉUQ) fell apart in the spring of 2015. The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) was one of the founding members of the FÉUQ in 1989, but affiliated and unaffiliated three times before permanently ending their membership in Fall 2006. As for the FÉUQ’s successor, SSMU has continued to consider affiliation with AVEQ since its creation in 2015.

Affiliation with AVEQ was put forward at the SSMU Winter 2016 referendum, which would have involved a non-opt-outable fee of $3.50 per semester. Though the referendum failed, SSMU remains an observer at AVEQ meetings. Ten to 11 other university associations are currently observing at the AVEQ meetings. In addition, Université du Quebec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) will propose a referendum to affiliate in Winter 2017 and the Université du Quebec à Trois-Rivieres (UQTR) will run one in Fall 2017.

AVEQ is financed by student fees, with its only sources of revenue currently being Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Université du Québec à Rimouski’s student association (AGECAR) student fees. Given the nature of student fees, Stethem wrote that the organization’s projected deficit for next year was an overestimation.

“On the revenue side, the exact number of students who will be paying fees can be difficult to estimate, particularly in a first full year of operation,” Stetham wrote. “Notably, we did not have a clear picture of numbers and specifics for summer students, which is the main factor contributing to extra revenues in the order of $30,000-$40,000.”

AVEQ Advisor to the Executive Isaac Stetham explained that the organization’s expenses have increased between 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 because AVEQ was not in operation until the final four months of the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

“The previous year, we had an interim team of five part-time staff working from the end of January,” Stetham wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “This year, we have three full-time executive positions filled, a full-time staff position, plus additional part-time staff [….] We now have a number of research projects, more travel for meetings and government representation, more material being produced, events organized, and so forth.”

The organization will reduce its expenditure if it runs into a deficit next year, but Stetham wrote that it is unlikely that it will have to do so.

“Depending on how things go over the next two and a half months, we should either significantly cut, or altogether eliminate the deficit that was projected in the budget,” Stetham wrote. “[…] Our hope is that a combination of more accurate budgeting of the [accounting and legal fees], and a potential increase in revenue from new member associations, will enable us to, at the very least, maintain our current level of operations while avoiding a deficit.”

SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Affairs David Aird maintained that AVEQ is financially stable.

“[AVEQ’s deficit] is not concerning because of the projected revenues in the future,” Aird said. “[….] The deficit will vanish if we [affiliate]. And even if McGill doesn’t join, AVEQ will be fine.”  

CSU External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator Aloyse Muller reports that Concordia’s affiliation with AVEQ has proven beneficial to the student body.

“We are very satisfied with how the culture of decision-making has proven very efficient and open and transparent,” Muller said. “At Concordia, we had to face a tuition hike on international students and so we fought [against] that with the help of AVEQ.”

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