The AMS is investing in the future, even if it means running a deficit for now.
Annually, the AMS allocates $10 million in student fees to services and operations supporting students. The Journal sat down with Michelle Hudson, AMS vice-president (operations), and Luca DiFrancesco, AMS board of directors’ chair, to discuss the 2023-24 AMS consolidated budget and various society initiatives.
Facing minimum wage hikes and an impending move to the JDUC, the AMS’s consolidated budget projects a service surplus, but government deficit. Though wages and salaries are on the rise, student honorariums will remain the same as previous years.
“As a student government, at the end of the day, we’re balancing money with student experience,” DiFrancesco said in an interview with The Journal.
“Coming in with profit isn’t our goal ever. We want to make sure we’re giving students the experience they deserve coming to a great institution like Queen’s and being able to support them through the AMS.”
Common Ground Coffeehouse (CoGro) balanced its budget this year, taking strides to eliminate the $88,075 deficit from last year. Hudson attributed the change to optimizing staffing structures and ongoing negotiations with Queen’s Hospitality and Ancillary Services to reduce the percentage they charge when students pay with flex dollars.
CoGro prices are on the rise to keep up with competitors and to run the service, but Hudson explained keeping the service affordable for students remains a priority.
“Like with sustainability cards, they’re bringing that from previous years where if you buy a certain amount of coffees, you get one free,” Hudson said in an interview with The Journal.
Projecting the largest deficit this year is the Printing and Copy Centre (P&CC), which is merging with Studio Q next year to form the AMS Media Centre. For DiFrancesco, keeping the deficit under $100,000 at $99,985, is a win. Wages and equipment expenses made the P&CC budget difficult to balance this year.
“Something with the services is we want to make it as accessible to students as we can, and [cheaper] than our direct competitor Staples. We want to keep things under, and available for students,” Hudson said.
The AMS Food Bank student fee doubled this year to $4.00, expanding the services’ budget twofold. The AMS Food Bank shops at No Frills, provides fresh food meal boxes, and is always accepting donations. This year’s $123,870 budget is being allocated month-by-month for purchasing fresh food for students.
Student fees for Queen’s StuCons, the AMS peer-to-peer security service, and the Peer Support Centre (PSC) were lowered this year.
“We want to make sure we’re giving students the bang for their buck,” Hudson said. “We don’t want to overcharge and take too much when you can see in previous years, historically, we’ve ended up with a surplus, which we want students to be charged [for] the services that they are using.”
While Queen’s StuCons continue their rebrand from last year, the service projects a $69,226 surplus.
Tricolour Outlet is predicting an uptick in revenue of $120,422 compared to last year. Management has worked on slowly fine-tuning since the service relocated to Rideau Hall from the JDUC. With less foot traffic in Rideau, the new location has come with challenges.
“[Tricolour has] been doing a lot of pop ups to kind of mitigate that,” Hudson said. “It’s kind of continuing that model to make sure students can see us, as well as boothing a lot in the Queen’s Centre, because that’s where students recognize and can see us.”
Walkhome is projecting a $16,593 surplus while The Queen’s Journal is projecting a $1,935 deficit. Overall, the AMS services project a $141,328 surplus, $132,741 lower than the surplus last year which was $274,069.
The office portfolio is projecting a $413,106 deficit this year.
Expenses went up due to wage hikes and the creation of new positions at the AMS, DiFrancesco explained. For the first time since 2021, the AMS Information Technology Office (ITO) is offering a student position. The ITO is building new firewalls in time for the AMS’s return to the JDUC.
“Looking from last year to this year, the Board of Directors last year approved a lot of new student positions,” DiFrancesco said. “The most apparent one which comes to mind is […] the new Events Assistant Manager under the Commission of Campus Affairs.”
Looking to the future, the AMS is invested in a new booking system for the Student Life Centre (SLC), while the Human Resource Office (HRO) looks at switching AMS Apply to an AMS owned server.
Some new initiatives, such as in-person voting, required capital investments boosting expenses. The AMS Board recently approved for Student Life Centre to start a key café, which will take the form of a vending machine for keys to club spaces on campus.
“We wanted to be very realistic this year, especially with some of our ongoing projects,” Hudson said. “It’s setting us up for success and the JDUC as well.”
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