Council Connection—August 17, 2023 Meeting

The meeting came to order at 6:03  with VP External Manmeet Kaur, Councillor Karen Fletcher, and Indigenous Circle Council Voice Rylee Feschuk absent with regrets.  The agenda was amended to add an item regarding the Executive Compensation Review Committee (ECRC).  This is the committee AUSU establishes to review the AUSU executive compensation, comparing it to other similar organizations in Alberta.

After quickly dispensing with the minutes, the single action item, to inquire with Alberta Blue Cross about the costs and coverage of providing health and dental insurance for AU students.  Previous councils have attempted this before, but have been unable to create something that was used by enough students to make it worthwhile.  This time, Executive Director Jodi Campbell noted that he’s been working with Alberta Blue Cross and a landing page is being built that will offer students a lot of choice as to the types of plan they can get with competitive pricing that “balances plan features with affordability” and is looking to have it launch in the very near future.

With that concluding the old business, Council moved on to the new business, which started with the AUSU draft budget for 2023-2024.  Presented by Vice President Finance and Administration (VPFA) Chantel Bradley, she noted that the experience was wonderful, and extremely informative, with every aspect of the organization having input.

In it, the cost for most sections of AUSU’s activities have increased, with only Finance’s expenses dropping, based entirely on the amortization expense.  The total amount budgeted for 2023-2024 is $1, 065,000 a $59,000 increase from the 2022-2023 budget.  The largest increase was in general operations, and within that, the staff benefits category was the largest increase, move from $17,600 to $32,250, an increase of $14,650 or an 83% increase. I asked as to why this category saw such a large increase and Director Campbell noted that the health insurance costs for the staff had increased considerably as Alberta Blue Cross is “normalizing” the benefit plan; that is, after three years of staff usage, Alberta Blue Cross is adjusting the price they are charging to be more in line with the amount that they are having to spend.  In addition, it was noted that inflation has played a factor in many of the increases being budgeted for throughout the entire budget is having to take on.

Executive Director Campbell pointed out that this new budget was balanced with the assumption that a fee increase would be applied as of January 1, 2024.  The increase, of $0.75 per credit, mean the total fee per credit will be $4.50.   Councillor Amber McDuffe noted that while she does not like to see fee increases, being able to maintain services for the students this year left little option.  The motion to approve the budget was brought to a vote, and passed unanimously.

Along with the budget, a new executive workplan was put forward, and also passed unanimously, without significant discussion.  You can find it (and other documents of interest) on their strategic documents page.

The next items was a motion to provide the Emergency Bursary Fund and the Travel Bursary fund additional money beyond what was originally budgeted.  It was noted that AUSU’s reserve for awards funds was well-funded, and a question was raised whether the proposed increases of $1,200 and $1,000 were enough.  After noting that the science courses were expecting another set of labs to be scheduled before the end of the year, Council agreed that the travel bursary should be increased by $3,000, while the increase of $1,200 was probably sufficient.  The amended motion then passed unanimously.

Finally, the additional item to create the Executive Compensation Review Committee came forward with Councillors Blake Collett, Amber McDuffe, and Karen Fletcher appointed to serve on this committee.

The next section was reports, and this section tends to move fairly quickly.  Of interest includes that AU is apparently forming an Academic Integrity working group which is looking at creating new policies to deal with AI and other new inventions that might threaten academic integrity.  AUSU has been granted a seat on the group.  Also it was noted during the Vice President Community and Wellness report that the June pride activities were very successful with large turnouts and feedback from students.  It was also noted that two podcasts are scheduled, the first being with two of the new Executives, and the second being with all four Deans of AUSU’s academic faculties.  Director Campbell pointed out that the podcast with the Deans was especially interesting to conduct, so should be a good one for students to listen to.

The meeting adjourned at 6:47, with the next meeting scheduled for September 21.  Contact if you’d like to attend!

%d bloggers like this: