Kirsten O'Brien/The AS Review
With an operating budget of more than $3 million, the dozens of offices and programs operated by the Associated Students try to create a diverse and vibrant campus environment for everyone at Western. But with a $113,908 deficit in this year’s budget, the AS Board of Directors and the student managers of AS offices and programs are going through their budgets with a fine-tooth comb to eliminate, reduce or consolidate expenditures without sacrificing quality.
“Our first priority is protecting our core services,” said AS Vice President for Business and Operations Ben Brockman. “The first programs to go will be those that have the least impact on students.”
The six-figure deficit is a result of several factors.
The AS expected to receive $70,000 from the AS Bookstore this year, but because the bookstore had an increase in personnel costs, there was not enough money left over to go to AS, Brockman said.
In addition, the university is planning to increase an administrative assessment fee paid by Western departments such as athletics, on-campus housing services and the AS. Brockman said the university currently collects 4 percent of the revenue generated by those offices, and the planned 1 percent increase of the fee would mean $31,000 less for the AS to put toward its programs and services. Lastly, the AS started the year with a $19,800 deficit left over from last year.
Programs offered by the Underground Coffeehouse and ASP Films may be among the first services to see changes.
Brianne Kumar, the AS personnel director, said in an e-mail that ASP Films will focus on hosting larger movie events, such as showing big-screen movies on the lawn outside the Communications Facility. The coffeehouse will see changes in its weekly concerts. Instead of having concerts on Fridays, which are not as well-attended as the concerts held on Wednesdays, the coffeehouse will offer more events like speed dating, comedy shows and trivia nights. Kumar added that these changes would better serve students and allow the extra money to be allocated elsewhere.
Brockman said that the AS examines how its various programs and services spend their funds through an assessment process called the Tactical Assessment Program, which is conducted by the AS Structure and Program Advisory Committee. The committee makes recommendations to program directors on how to make their services more effective and efficient with less money.
Brockman said that through the TAP process, the committee is looking closely at the reduction or elimination of programs that do not serve a majority of students.
“My highest priority is to protect student services but to make them more efficient so that we can provide the same quality of services we do but at a lower cost,” he said.
The AS has a “rainy day” reserve account with more than half a million dollars that can sustain operations for one quarter, but Brockman said that using money from the reserves to fill the gap in the budget would only be a short term solution. The budget inefficiencies would just continue to absorb funds and further deplete the reserve money. With less in the reserves, it would be more difficult for the AS to respond to future events that may cause drops in revenue, such as decreased student enrollment that would then decrease the student fees that the AS depends on for funding.
“It is my personal goal to eliminate most, if not all, of this deficit for next year because it is not sustainable,” Brockman said. “Furthermore, if we don’t reduce the deficit this year, it’s not like the problem is going to get any better on its own. This would just be giving it to people in the future to deal with, and it will be infinitely more difficult for them to fix.”
AS President Colin Watrin said that all AS office managers are being asked to come up with plans to reduce their budgets by 7 percent. He said that the goal is not to reduce services, but to think of ways to restructure AS programs so they can still offer students quality events.
“We’re still providing the services, and they might be different services, but that doesn’t mean that the quality is less,” he said.