AUSU Council Report—January 20, 2021 Meeting

The January 20th meeting started with the expected participants having a notable absence of a Vice-President of Finance and Administration.  However, Councillor Monique Durette, the VPFA at the previous meeting, was still present.  Supporting documents in the meeting noted two resignations.  One of VPFA Monique Durette from the position, though she would be remaining on Council, and the second being that of Councillor Joshua Ryan from Council for work in his field.  Monique’s resignation letter from the position of VPFA notes that she decided to do so to accelerate her graduation by just under a year and move on to pursuing her career that much earlier.

President Stacey Hutchings provided the acknowledgements of the traditional lands AUSU operates from, and the agenda was accepted without adjustment, although Councillor Darcie Fleming noted that there was a motion from a January 12th meeting that should be ratified.  Governance and Advocacy Coordinator Duncan Wojtaszek noted that the minutes from that meeting had not been completed yet, but it was in them and they would be released soon.  While it wasn’t announced exactly what meeting that was, I was able to guess from the context that what was being spoken about was an executive election meeting to replace the VPFA.

It quickly became clear that Councillor Almigdad Eldoma was now properly addressed as Vice President of Finance and Administration, Almigdad Eldoma.  So congratulations go to him.  And just to make sure he got to jump in the deep end right away, this meeting would be dealing with the annual audit of AUSU’s finances by the firm Kingston Ross Pasnak, normally known as simply KRP.

As is usual with the review of the audit, representatives from KRP were in attendance to present the result and answer any questions that might arise.  AUSU Executive Director Jodi Campbell started off with a summary noting that it had been a thorough audit by KRP, and passed the floor to KRP representative Chad Knippel.  He presented the audited financial statements, noting that AUSU currently has a balance sheet of approximately 1.6 million, with net assets that increased by $228,192 over the course of the 2019/2020 financial year.  That increase stemmed from revenues exceeding expectations by almost $100,000 as more people turned to online education during the pandemic, by AUSU realizing savings of another near $100,000 from the expected budget with the Professional Development category seeing the largest savings, as only $16,667 was spent out of a budgeted 41,000.  AUSU also realized gains on investments and savings of about $50,000.

Mr. Knippel noted that while there were some adjustments that needed to be made to AUSU’s books during the audit, most of these were dealing with end of year accruals, and it was a clean audit.  However, Mr. Knippel also noted discrepancies in documentation suggesting different totals for reserves and contingency funds, with a difference of about $60,000.  This sent up some alarm bells among Councillors, as VPFA Eldoma asked for more information on these discrepancies, as it seems like a huge amount to be missing.

Mr. Knippel clarified that the discrepancy was not in the amount of money in the accounts but rather in how AUSU had classified the money, and exactly under which reserve or contingency account the funds should be reported as being under.  This was further clarified by the other KRP representative present, Natalia Thoth, who noted as an example that while the AUSU contingency reserve was stated in some AUSU documentation as being a total of $350,000, there were also motions within AUSU’s governance history noting a contingency reserve of only $275,000.  The auditors pointed out that for better accounting practices and transparency, AUSU needs to ensure that all of its documentation as to how much money is to be considered in the various reserves is consistent.

Councillor Monique Durette noted that the KRP fee for the service was higher than initially budgeted for, and was wondering if this would require a motion.  Executive Director Jodi Campbell noted that the overage was within the limits for budgetary overages that could be dealt with by finance committee and so a full montion wasn’t required.  He also noted that the overage came from the thoroughness of the audit, which found out the previously mentioned concerns about the reserve fund allocations.

With the concerns addressed, Council voted unanimously to approve the financial statements, and then to re-appoint KRP as the financial auditors for the upcoming year.

There was then come significant discussion on the action items. In particular, the action item to look into appropriate organizational consultants for AUSU, including one to examine AUSU’s indigenization.  There remained confusion among Councillors as to whether the intended goal of these consultants was to look purely at AUSU policy for areas where AUSU might have gaps or places to increase efficiency or to take a broader, holistic look at the organization, also as to whether the indigenization was something worthwhile at this point to have an outside consultant examine.  A short straw poll was held and it was determined to limit the scope of the organizational consultant to AUSU’s policies and bylaws currently, and to wait for the Student Indigenous Committee to present their ideas for indigenization first.

An email motion was brought forward approving an expense of just over $4,000 for software packages Asana and Harvest.  These packages are to help Councillors, Staff, and Executive with project management, day-to-day task management, and time tracking.

Council then addressed the terms of reference of the student advisory committee to take into account the suggestions of the previous advisory committee as to how it might be able to operate better and provide more value to AUSU.  In future, AUSU will strive to arrange more synchronous meetings to the student advisory committee.

Councillors Karen Fletcher and Amber McDuffe were then appointed to the Member Engagement and Communications Committee due to the new vacancies brought on by the changes in Council membership.

Finally, we came to the reports.  Unusually, there were no additional comments made to the reports, with all executives just leaving them as presented.  Considering that this was for both the month of November and December, I found it surprising that the executives did not want to highlight some of the things done during that time.  However, as we were dealing with multiple changes to the executive roles, and had already head a reasonably long meeting with the discussion of the audit and finances, it was also a bit of a blessing in disguise.

With that, we came to the end of the meeting, and before adjourning completely, thanks were officially noted for Josh and Monique’s service on AUSU Council, with Joshua noting that it had been an “awesome three years” working with Council and seeing how AUSU really tries to help students.