Eli Ridder | Report
IGNITE executives presented a stopgap $5 million budget for the next fiscal year and promoted the initiatives they made progress on in the last eight months during the 2019 Annual General Meeting at Humber College North Campus on Wednesday.
Executive Director Ercole Perrone explained that the operating budget for 2019-2020 will change when a new budget is presented in the summer once more details are known from the Ontario government regarding the Student Choice Initiative, which will allow students to opt-out of some of their fees to student unions.
The breakdown of the budget did not include funding for the Flexible Health and Dental Insurance Plan, which is considered by the province to be “essential” and can not be opted out of.
The document presented at the AGM lists funding that will be optional come this fall and the essential services, usually costing over $6 million, will be added in the full budget this summer.
IGNITE estimates that there will be $11 million based on student enrolment and the membership of some 32,000 full time students at Humber College and University of Guelph-Humber. This does not take int consideration the SCI, which is why the budget will have to be modified during the summer.
The student union broke down their expenditures into six general categories: governance receives $422,000, Administration gets $1.9 million, clubs and activities such as Frosh are slated for $1 million, communications are allocated $860,000 and a total of $70,000 is set aside for costs associated with upgrading student spaces and furniture.
There is also the usual $6.7 million that will be used for Services, largely spent on the Felxible Health and Dental Insurance plan. This is considered an “essential” fee by the Ontario government and will be mandatory to fund.
IGNITE President Monica Khosla with Vice Presidents Jeremy Largo Afonso and Graham Budgeon were in attendance to represent the executives, absent Maheen Nazim. Saffiya Lulat, Christian Semerjian and chair Shayan Shakil made up the delegation from the Board of Directors, who are in charge of financial oversight.
The items on the $5,323,184 operating budget are entirely made up of what will likely be considered optional starting this fall. This stopgap approach to a budget that is usually formally confirmed at the AGM was known ahead of time as the Board of Directors in February said they could not pass a permanent fiscal budget when so much was unknown from the province.
“As a Board we agreed this would be the best way to approach the situation because there is no way to tell what the budget will be at this time,” Board Director Margarita Bader told The Avro Post following the meeting.
“However, there has been a lot of preparation put in place to ensure that the next board gets the training they need — most are even keeping up with all the changes happening now — so that they can approve next year’s budget as soon as that information is available.”
There were mixed reactions from students.
Ontario Students for Sensible Drug Policy club President Emelia Maceášik said “IGNITE’s goal of ‘transparency’ has not been met, as students do not have full access to their line-by-line or line item budget”, referencing a largely non-specific overview of how money is used in the budget.
“We pay for Ignite’s services, and we have a right to know where our money is being allocated to.”
“Other colleges and universities have their detailed, line item budgets readily available for download. Is there a specific reason as to why Ignite refuses to post the budget on their site?”
Student activist and one-time Senate candidate Hannah Derue published her response on social media, criticizing the student union for their lack of transparency.
IGNITE has come under fire in the past for only producing an infographic for the annual budget.
A strategic plan, which has been going through a planning process since fall 2017, was presented to the audience in the Student Centre. If passed at an April 11 Board of Directors meeting, it will act as organizational objectives for the Board and executives over the next three years.
The meeting started off with executives outlining their accomplishments on their initiatives throughout the year from the Student Centre stage. An AGM package was handed out at the event that outlines the initiatives the executives worked on, going into detail on how they were carried out.
Earlier this year, The Avro Post published a progress report outlining the initiatives promised by the current executives during the campaign period and comparing it to what was accomplished thus far, finding that more than half of the platform items were either discarded or there was no action yet.
Khosla spoke on her accessibility initiatives, including her focus groups for improving accessibility across campus, saying that 14 people went to her events over the school year and that it is “going well”. The president added that 558 individuals responded to the accessibility survey.
A student asked about having a report outlining her progress, to which Khosla said they should talk to her after the AGM since it was not on the agenda. The Avro Post has reached out to clarify if there was a final summary from the president.
Vice President Budgeon, who represents Lakeshore Campus, discussed his wellness initiatives, saying that many crisis coordinators were hired for the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre this school year and new initiatives will be launched in the fall, including an online counselling services, which was not previously known.
Over the past year, $412,500 in bursaries were awarded to students, with $50,000 of it disbursed to over 40 students via the financial relief program. He is working now with the Humber College administration to address institutional learning outcomes.
In the document, it was noted work was done on opening more study space on campus, an initiative by Vice President Largo Afonso. A new study lab in the H Building on North Campus was completed, as well as plans for new spaces in buildings throughout Humber.
The Avro Post will be publishing a final report on the status of the campaign initiatives and new initiatives that were added throughout the year for the end of April, when the current executives and Board of Directors step down.
The Avro Post has reached out for comment on the AGM from the Board Director-elects and the vice president-elects.
IGNITE experienced some backlash after students who could not attend the Annual General Meeting were not able to access a live stream of the event, a move the student union said was because they did not want those who did not pay fees to watch. In the past, IGNITE has published a video of the AGM.
IGNITE Vice President-elect Megan Roopnarine and Board Director-elect Erika Caldwell, who were both at the AGM, declined to give their comments on the budget. Director-elect Julia Ciampa was there as well but did not respond to a request for comment.
Image of the AGM from The Avro Post.