Hope you’re all doing well, and that McLennan’s ventilation is satisfactory this time of year. I myself have been holed up in the music library… And I am sick of studying.
Here are some things happening in my portfolio right now. I went alphabetically off the top of the my head by topic. If there’s something you want to know about, it may have slipped between the recesses of my sleep-deprived consciousness, so give me a holler.
** I’m far too lazy to look up the exact figures right now, but if you’re interested, let me know and I’d be glad to look it up for you!**
Auditing (and bookkeeping):
– Just met with our auditor (Fuller-Landau) on Wednesday, and signed the audited financial statements for 2013-2014. I then went to DPSLL (Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning) to give them a copy– their submission is mandatory for the AUS to receive the Minerva Trust Fund cheques (McGill collects your $13.50/semester, and only hands it over to the AUS once we fulfill our legal obligations to the university). So we’re home free for this year! Hip hip hooray!
– While on the topic of the auditor, I’ve asked Fuller-Landau to submit a written proposal for its audit services. This is because for the last two years, the AUS has been operating on a verbal agreement with Fuller-Landau, and they were never officially engaged. Last year, the costs of the audit were around twenty thousand dollars (because many mistakes needed to be corrected from the 2010-2012 Dark Ages of No Audit At All [such as the co-opt $130,000 of the Subway space “sale” that was incorrectly classified as a loan, rather than a payment from McGill to the AUS]). Our auditor quoted $10,000 for its services, so I’ll do some research into other firms to see whether or not that’s fair, as well as present the proposal to AUS Council in January before I engage Fuller-Landau for this audit year.
– Bookkeeping is something that the AUS does in-house. Bookkeeping is typically a professional service costing ~$60/hour (Fuller-Landau). The AUS previously had a part-time bookkeeper. Now, I supervise the bookkeeping (signing off on all cheque requisitions, doing checks on QuickBooks), but much of the day-to-day work is done by our Executive Assistant, Grant. We recently transitioned from the QuickBooks software (precarious situation because the program is on a remote desktop to our ex-auditors) to cloud-based QuickBooks Online. All transactions have been back-entered to August 1st, 2014, and we are requesting a copy of transactions from the previous seven years to be extracted from our ex-auditor’s servers. I’m asking a bookkeeper from our auditor, Fuller-Landau, to come in for a transition check-up to make sure that everything has been transferred correctly to QuickBooks Online, and to make sure the AUS is on a good track going forward.
– Update as of December 16th: so we’ve figured out where the problem was, and how to make sure the records align from QuickBooks to QuickBooks Online (fun fact: we’re the first client Fuller-Landau has who is fully transitioning to QuickBooks Online). Our Executive Assistant, Grant, will be working on this project for the first few weeks in January.
– The Arts Undergraduate Improvement Fund (AUIF) is one of the most expensive student fees, at $16/semester (tip: don’t opt-out, or you’ll lose access to the Arts Lounge). The size of the fund is roughly two hundred thousand dollars (depending on student enrolment, and who opts out). Its purpose is capital improvements for student spaces. This means couches/kettles/safes for your departmental associations, lighting for the Arts Lounge, space improvements for the Arts Internship Office, etc.
– The AUIF meeting this year will be February 10th, 6pm in Arts 160. The deadline for funding applications is February 2nd at 2pm to firstname.lastname@example.org.
– If you’re interested in sitting on this committee, I’ll be sending out information in the VP Communications’ listserv in January.
– I’m changing the way AUIF grants will be administered this year. Typically, departments begin buying items they’ve been granted money for in a trickle-flow way– even in October/November, some departments had not redeemed their grants. This year, I will ask for very specific models and sites, then order these items myself (save money on delivery!) to the AUS. This should do three things: 1) get these items to departments faster, 2) eliminate the financial burden of having a departmental executive put forward money on the purchase (typically quite large) then go through the administrative friction of a cheque requisition, and 3) reduce the number of things I have to keep in my head.
– Fun fact, the Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society is under my umbrella (as of this year, since they have internalized). Currently, they receive $1/semester from full-time B.A. students (non opt-outable). The reason I’m including a section on AUTS is because they are currently in a financial predicament. The Financial Management Committee has advanced them $21,058.87 (rental of Moyse Hall), as well as $7496.00 (production rights to Chicago). Previously, they had a comfortable cushion of about thirty thousand dollars, which meant they had no issue paying for rights and rent (costs which must be paid before ticket revenue comes in). However, last year’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone failed to meet projected ticket sales, which brought down AUTS’ financial position to a starting balance of about seven thousand dollars. Thus, an internal loan was necessary to cover their production rights to Chicago (this was done by Kateryn, my predecessor), to be repaid in January. They then received about seven thousand dollars from the AUTS fee, which brings their funds up to about fifteen thousand dollars. This was not enough to cover the rental fee for Moyse Hall, which is why they approached the Financial Management Committee (FMC) for a loan. At FMC, we talked extensively about this, and decided to grant them the loan, on the condition that they meet with the FMC after production to prevent them from needing a loan in the future. Here was the thought process:
– First things first, the AUS had enough funds to cover the loan.
– It was far too late for the AUTS to look into other venues that could be cheaper.
– The reason the AUTS needed a loan was because their production decimated their cushion which allowed them to pay for these set costs ahead of time — otherwise, the AUTS can operate at break-even. The AUTS will need to build up its cushion in the next few years; FMC will work with them after the production (when figures are available) to create a plan of action.
– Their executive was very aware of its financial situation, and very committed to marketing/publicity for this year, as well as cutting small costs where they could.
Cheque Requisition Process:
– Been getting a few complaints about this. The current system is cheque req form –> goes to departmental VP Finance to sign off on (implemented so 1) they can track their budget and 2) so that all amounts pulled from departmental accounts meet executive approval) –> me –> Grant, our Executive Assistant –> 3-5 business days –> ready for pick up.
– This is certainly a cumbersome process, but I think it is important, given how many discrepancies there were in calculating rollover from last year (purchases that were unauthorized/fishy that were cheque req’d). I think the problem is more so that everybody involved must understand the process, and go through the motions of coming to the AUS Office, fixing any mistakes, etc, is what causes frustration. In the New Year, I will make Departmental VP Finances the sole liaisons between their departments (and those who purchase items for departmental events) and the AUS. This should reduce congestion and make for a clearer accountability trail.
– Will most likely be going to referendum as a $0.95/credit fee in order to sustain the AIO (Arts Internship Office) after the MELS grant was cut. For a full time student on 30 credits, that’s $28.50/year. This will be put forth as a five-year non-optoutable fee. Our generous donors will use this period of time to fundraise an endowment.
– Personally, I do support this fee, even though I believe that the AIO is a fundamental service that should be funded by a portion of tuition (it was never a service that was “cut” from our tuition–the AIO would apply every year to MELS for a grant to operate). Having an internship office is an important draw; the lack of one would sound alarm bells to any prospective student. More urgently, I think it provides an invaluable resource to current students in administering internships, and liaising between donors (of Arts Internship Awards). It was originally put forth as a larger fee ($2.25/credit initially, with $1.50/credit going towards building a $1.5 million endowment– another $3.5 million for the endowment would be generated by a fundraising campaign), which was not received well. For reference, all of AUS’ fees combined are nowhere close to the magnitude that $2.25/credit would impose on students– $67.50 for a full-time student taking 30 credits.
– Departments must now send out their approved budgets to their constituents via listserv by January 10th (motion passed at November 26th’s AUS Council). If you, the constituent, have any concerns about how your department is using its allocation, or about how they distribute their funds, shoot me an email at email@example.com.
– I am thinking of raising departmental allocations in the New Year, as the AUS is operating at a surplus currently. There are two avenues I considered (I mulled this over with the Financial Management Committee):
A) Raise the floor (currently $500) of minimum departmental allocations. The reasoning is that for smaller departments, it’s a constant struggle to stretch their budgets. If they want a large event, say at Thomson House, they will need to gamble basically their entire annual allocation. Even with regular samosa sales/bake sales/fundraising, it’s still difficult for smaller groups to do much (even though many have been doing stupendously– CSA, you the bomb). This would also allow them to run programs/events without having to frequently apply for FMC funding, or piggyback onto larger departments’ events for financial reasons.
B) Raise the current base amounts of $1.35/major and $0.90/minor. I am not keen on this option, as there’s already a very large discrepancy between departmental allocations. The smallest at $500/year and the largest at over $4000/year.
– I am much more for Option A. I will present this to AUS Council in the New Year.
I got to D. How fitting, because I’m in Dallas right now. That’s completely coincidental. I’m just too tired. Happy holidays, everyone, and see you in the New Year!
AUS VP Finance