Between the Motions: Councillors approve new subsidy, discuss 2022/23 budget, fill Senate vacancy

Finances and budgets took centre stage at last night’s AMS Council meeting.

On Wednesday, AMS execs and councillors met in the Michael Kingsmill forum to discuss a new subsidy for constituency events and the 2022/23 budget. They also voted to appoint a new student senator-at-large.

Here is what you might have missed.

Councillors approve subsidy for students to attend constituency events

VP Finance Rita Jin presented a motion from the Finance Committee to create a subsidy for students wishing to attend paid constituency events — those hosted by groups like the Arts Undergraduate Society or the Science Undergraduate Society — within the Constituency Aid Fund. The committee would be tasked with approving applications for this subsidy.

Jin said the change was needed to make this fund more accessible to students, which currently has $20,000.

Board of Governors representative Max Holmes asked Jin to specify what the committee meant by constituency event, expressing concern that this change could lead to the fund being used for a lot of things.

Jin said this change would apply to any events hosted by constituencies that are open to all members — which would exclude any internal retreats or socials.

Holmes and engineering councillor Christian Kyle also expressed concern with the lack of criteria for who was eligible for this subsidy.

Jin said the Finance Committee was still discussing the eligibility of this subsidy — “We're hoping to have something similar to what we currently have with the health and dental subsidy applications or the U-Pass subsidy application” — and that she would be happy to present a rubric to Council when it is complete.

She added that the Finance Committee would not approve applications if it noticed that the fund was getting depleted.

Following a lengthy discussion, the motion passed.

A return to normal (revenues)?

Councillors also discussed the 2022/23 budget following a brief presentation from Jin.

According to Jin, the AMS is expecting $4.2 million in revenue — a little over $300,000 more than last year’s actual revenue — and a $1.16 million deficit. She said this deficit was built up over several years.

This was the first presentation and discussion on the 2022/23 budget after councillors voted to waive the required preliminary budget for this year at the last Council meeting.

Holmes repeatedly asked if the AMS was equipped to handle a deficit and if items like the professional development fund should be cut to balance the budget.

AMS President Eshana Bhangu said the professional development fund was necessary to train student staff within the AMS. She also said that one-off spending items like those for the Great Trek celebration later this year or increased spending to support the AMS Food Bank which has seen a significant increase in demand this past year was a reason why the deficit was higher than past years.

Managing Director Keith Hester said the student society would borrow against an internal reserve to handle the effects of the deficit, but that businesses are near pre-pandemic levels.

A final presentation and vote on the budget is expected at the next AMS Council meeting on June 22.

Filling in the gaps

Following a brief in-camera discussion, councillors voted to appoint Kamil Kanji to fill the vacant student senator-at-large position in the UBC Vancouver Senate.

Kanji unsuccessfully ran for one of the five senator-at-large positions in the AMS Elections in March, coming in sixth place. He also recently won reelection as an arts representative on AMS Council, but resigned to work as the Strategy and Governance lead in Bhangu’s office.

Under Senate policy, AMS Council is tasked with filling any student vacancy in the Senate.

Bhangu, Romina Hajizadeh, Anisha Sandhu, AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Dana Turdy and Georgia Yee were elected to the Senate in March. According to a message from Turdy, Anisha Sandhu recently resigned.

Kanji's appointment was approved unanimously.