UWSA budget sets stage for future changes

Soma Cafe will not reopen in Duckworth Centre, according to vice president internal

UWSA vice president internal Andree Forest. Kristian Jordan

When the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) vice president internal Andree Forest presents the organization’s budget at its Annual General Meeting later this month, she will do so with the knowledge that big changes are just over the horizon.

“(It is important to) show students that their money is being managed professionally,” she said of the recently approved budget and the organization’s plans for the year ahead.

“We are an organization that provides a lot of services, and it is up to us to take advantage of retail locations to reinvest in other areas.”

The nearly $4 million budget for 2014, which is based on projected student fee increases of 2.5 per cent to correspond with student population growth, outlines an increase in the organization’s overall deficit - from $21,322 last year to $43,058 in 2014 - while laying the groundwork for future restraint.

“As we figure out the budget … and make it as close as we can expect the next year to be, I think it’s easier to be conservative,” Forest said, adding the UWSA has budgeted cautiously when it comes to revenues, which may exceed expectations.

“That’s one of the reasons why there is a difference from last year but also we have increased funding for students and student groups considerably.”

The UWSA increased part-time wages by 25 cents across the board while union staff receive a 2.5 per cent wage hike as per their collective agreement. Additionally, no student jobs were cut from the budget largely as a result of budget consultations, according to Forest.

“Definitely a focus on our retail locations and student jobs was the number one most valued service, so that told us that we shouldn’t cut any jobs in those areas,” she said of the roughly 100 students who participated in online budget surveys throughout the winter, adding the UWSA has increased its employment opportunities for the coming year.

One of the most significant new expenditures for the UWSA is the cost of events, which are slated to increase by roughly $20,000 in 2014 in part through the addition of 100 hours of part-time labour.

What about Soma Cafe?

Last Spring, The Uniter reported that Soma Cafe was slated to relocate to Lockhart Hall - the current location of the Diversity Foods-run Cafe Bodhi - in the fall of 2012.

Due to unspecified construction delays, however, the cafe has been stuck on the first floor of the Duckworth Centre under significantly reduced hours and without measurable changes to its menu or business plan.

According to Forest, the cafe will finally be moving this fall after losing over $30,000 this year and nearly $250,000 since opening in 2008. 

Even if construction delays again impede the move, she said, the cafe will not reopen in Duckworth Centre come September.

“We’re working on a new business plan for Soma to account for the new location and other changes on campus,” Forest said, adding the UWSA has access to Cafe Bodhi’s financial data and is used those figures to help project 2014 revenues and expenditures.

Forest budgeted for an annual loss of $5,665 in the cafe’s new location, ultimately believing that Soma could eventually make money for the UWSA.

“There will be more transactions (at the new location). Period,” she said.

The UWSA will holds its Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, March 20 from noon to 3:00 p.m. in the Bulman Centre.

Published in Volume 67, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 14, 2013)

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