The SGPS released their proposed 2023-24 budget.
The proposed budget was presented on Sept. 19 at the monthly SGPS council meeting by SGPS Vice-President (Finance and Services) Gaby Fekete. This year the SGPS budgeted $501,250 towards student subsidies, grants, and wages.
The goal of this year’s budget was to reflect the interests of SGPS members, promote financial sustainability, and minimize under-utilized budget items, Fekete explained in an interview with The Journal. Fekete used historical data to optimize the utility of all the SGPS budget lines.
“One of the most important aspects of my role is overseeing the financial assistance program. I believe this program has such a huge capacity to help our members and has helped our members in various ways,” Fekete said.
Financial assistance accounts for 14.6 per cent of the SGPS’s budget. The SGPS provides a couple hundred dollars per student in subsidies for students meeting criteria.
In this year’s budget, a new General Health Subsidy replaced the SGPS Mental Health Subsidy, which no longer exists. The new health subsidy provides $18,000 for mental health and other health expenses, such as medications and chiropractor visits, for students who maxed out their insurance coverage. Covering a broader spectrum of expenses, Fekete hopes the subsidy will be better utilized.
Last year less than half of the budgeted $5,000 for mental health was used by SGPS members.
“Now our students can apply through the general health subsidy for any health-related expenses that are covered under the SGPS health insurance plan,” Fekete said.
The 2023-24 budget includes a $250 limit per applicant under the General Health Subsidy. A Gender-Affirming Care Subsidy was also introduced as a separate initiative in the budget. This subsidy provides coverage for services, medications, and products for individuals receiving gender-affirming care.
“One example that we received recently was we had a student that was seeking speech therapy [who] was undergoing gender affirming care, so we provided financial assistance to that student,” Fekete said.
Students are eligible for up to $500 in gender affirming care subsidies from the SGPS.
Fekete highlighted the amended criteria for graduate students applying for the Emergency Student Assistance Subsidy. Students are eligible for $150 to support their academic obligations or to cover extenuating life circumstances, such as travel expenses or if there’s a death in their family.
“All of the subsidies we offer require students to submit a proof of expense,” Fekete said.
All commission events budgets were reduced this year, after $16,027.95 went unused last fiscal year.
The SGPS updated the budget for post-pandemic operations by bringing back initiative grants and increasing conference budget lines.
“What the grant program does is it offers funding to students for student-led initiatives that improve accessibility, diversity, and inclusion, or sustainability at Queen’s. With the aim being the initiative would benefit the Queen’s community as a whole and not necessarily faculty-specific initiatives,”
Past grants were used to run a sensitivity awareness campaign for Halloween, or to purchase recycling bins for campus buildings.
Wages made up $242,889 of budged expenses. Employee wages and benefits increased, except for student advisor wages. Commissioner stipends saw a $4,160.04 rise, despite last year’s surplus of $16,816.80.
To enhance the financial sustainability of the SGPS, the executive invested money received in 2018 when the Society switched insurance providers. The insurance payout can only be used by the SGPS to support health and dental student coverage.
“We have invested excess funds in accordance with sustainability principles and in accordance with the promises that our members have made to not be invested in any fossil fuels, and to have invested sustainably and responsibly,” Fekete said.
The SGPS successfully applied for a campus safety grant to offer members access to trainings making Queen’s a safer place. The grant isn’t included in the budget.
“Over the summer, for example, we offered our members to sign up for an online suicide alertness training. Sixty-five of them did, and we paid for all of them to take that training,” Fekete said.
Graduate and professional students are facing financial duress and stress, Fekete explained. It’s a challenge she takes seriously.
“We care about our students deeply, and our members deeply, and we’re working always to make sure we leave Queen’s a better place for them,” Fekete said.
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