Between the Motions: Councillors approve 2022/23 budget with $1.6 million deficit

Councillors approved the 2022/23 budget and discussed the future of the Nest’s mask mandate at last night’s 6.5 hour-long AMS Council meeting.

Here is what you might have missed.

Making money moves

Following a short discussion, councillors approved the budget for the 2022/23 fiscal year.

Notably, councillors approved the budget without releasing a public draft copy. According to last night’s agenda, the Finance Committee will release it on Monday.

According to a presentation from the June 1 Council meeting, the AMS is expecting $4.2 million in revenue and a $1.16 million deficit.

VP Finance Rita Jin did not give a separate presentation of the budget last night, noting that the Finance Committee and councillors already had an opportunity to review it.

Much of the debate around the budget centred around the deficit, with arts Councillors Max Holmes and Audrey Chow asking if the AMS had a long-term strategy to address it.

Managing Director Keith Hester said the AMS should consider increasing its general fee instead of relying on the businesses in the Nest for revenue. President Eshana Bhangu echoed this and added that the student society needs to reconsider how it spends reserve funds.

Bhangu also said she would work on a report with Hester and Jin outlining the AMS’s strategy to address the deficit upon the request of arts Councillor Cynara Onyemordi.

The budget process this year was atypical. Unlike in past years, the Finance Committee did not produce a preliminary budget after Council suspended code to give them more time to prepare the final budget.

Holmes noted that some of the issues with this year’s budget process is the fault of the previous executive team but that work needs to start earlier next year to ensure the process is more extensive.

Jin said the Finance Committee started working on the budget later this year due to issues around scheduling a meeting with enough members.

Bhangu agreed with Holmes and acknowledged that last year’s executive team — which she was part of — could have done better.

The budget eventually passed with 13 in favour, 2 against and 7 abstentions.

Mask on? Mask off?

Councillors also discussed the mask mandate in the Nest — which has been in place since September 2020.

Bhangu said the Executive Committee has discussed rescinding the mandate since it has become difficult for staff and employees to enforce it in the Nest.

“We don't have the capacity or manpower to enforce the mask mandate in the building at this point with the number of students who aren't following it,” she said. The AMS has taken a passive enforcement approach throughout the pandemic.

She proposed ending the mandate when UBC ends its requirement. The university has not announced its plans around its mask mandate which is set to expire on June 30.

Many councillors seemed to support ending the mandate when UBC did, commenting that it didn’t make sense to have a mandate the AMS couldn’t enforce and that the student society could still encourage mask wearing.

But, some said the AMS needed to consider how such a decision would impact disabled and immunocompromised students.

“I’m just a little uncomfortable that we don't have [the perspective of these students] while making this decision tonight. And it could actually make our building less accessible to people,” Holmes said.

A motion to end the mask mandate on June 30 contingent on UBC ending its requirement didn’t pass. Instead, councillors voted to give the Executive Committee authority over determining whether to keep or end the Nest’s mask mandate.