Student fed says cuts caused by health plan, 2015-16 year deficit

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) has announced that it will be making significant cuts to its services and staff over the summer to avoid bankruptcy.

The announcement, which was posted to the SFUO website on March 31, stated that “due to a significant cash flow shortage, this service provision will be reduced throughout the summer months.”

The statement continues to say that one of the main changes will be in staffing, that the SFUO will be “temporarily laying off 24 staff, leaving 16 positions vacant, and reducing the hours in three positions.”

The release also says there will be a “reduction of events for the remainder of the 2015-16 academic year,” and “a particularly cautious budgeting process when moving forward in the 2016-17 year.”

The cuts were discussed in more detail at the recent Board of Administration (BOA) meeting, which took place on March 23, in an in-camera (closed to the public) discussion.

One SFUO member who wishes to remain anonymous says  most services will be shut down in the summer, except for the Student Rights Centre, the Bike Co-op—which will remain open with reduced staff—and the Food Bank.

The student says these cuts will come into effect as soon as April and continue throughout the summer, but that the current executive team hasn’t specified what will happen in the fall because these decisions will be left to the incoming executives.

The student also says that these financial issues have been building for several years and that, although there is an external audit annually, the auditor’s recommendations have been slow to be implemented or not implemented at all.

As it stands, three executives—Roméo Ahimakin, Vanessa Dorimain and Hadi Wess will all be returning as executives next year, as president, vice-president university affairs, and vice-president social, respectively.

Another student involved with the SFUO, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims that if these summer cuts are not implemented, the SFUO will not be able to avoid bankruptcy.

This individual stated that the social, campaigns and clubs budgets could be open to cuts in the coming year, while the new health plan and U-Pass will not be.

One reason the SFUO gives for its financial situation is the health plan.

In the release, the SFUO states that it has been subsidizing the health-care plan, as the fees from students designated to cover it have not increased in over a decade. The SFUO did not state why the fees were not increased to adjust for inflation or rising health-care costs.

Another reason given is the adoption of a deficit in the 2015-16 budget, approved in August 2015 by the SFUO’s BOA and Finance Committee.

With this “significant deficit” in the 2015-16 budget, the release states it is “further exacerbated by a cash flow issue due to the nature of the operations of the students’ union.” The SFUO budget is on their website, though it has not been updated and may not totally reflect the current financial situation.

The release states that a “new budgeting process” will be instituted going forward to ensure more oversight.

It continues, “It’s our expectation that this short-term action, will allow us to restore operations in Fall 2016.”

The SFUO did not respond to the Fulcrum’s request for comment.