The Charlatan is Carleton University’s independent student newspaper run separately from the School of Journalism.
In the end, it took the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) six hours to accept their 2011-2012 operating budget Jan. 26, eight months into the 12-month year.
“Planning a budget meeting eight months into the year is difficult to do,” said vice-president (finance) Karim Khamisa, who added he put the finishing touches on the budget only an hour an a half before the meeting.
Khamisa’s proposed budget projected a $120,199.77 deficit for the students’ association.
In presenting his budget, Khamisa said the deficit was largely a result of the almost five-month legal battle that resulted in a council freeze.
CUSA had only expected to pay routine fees at the beginning of the term, Khamisa said, but their legal fees wound up being much higher than anticipated.
CUSA president Obed Okyere significantly amended the budget during the Jan. 26 meeting to a final projected deficit of roughly $45,000.
The amended version was passed at the meeting. However, Khamisa abstained from voting and drew criticism for not distributing copies of the budget in advance.
Okyere said he unsuccessfully requested a copy of the budget several times prior to the meeting.
“It’s up to debate whether it was an unintentional or political way to prevent the amendment of the budget,” Okyere said.
The budget was originally due Aug. 1, 2011, but was held up due to the legal battle, Khamisa said. He said he was constantly updating the budget to keep it current, which was why it wasn’t finished until shortly before the meeting.
Okyere said he wasn’t surprised that Khamisa’s budget had a deficit, but rather that there was such a high deficit even though the budget proposed cuts to student services.
Okyere said he was able to reduce the projected deficit and increase funding to services and clubs by reducing how much the executives spend and reducing the amount of money being put into campaigns and events.
One of the disputes surrounding the budget was over the legal fees. As per the agreement between the plaintiffs and defendants, CUSA will cover the cost of legal fees for both parties.
Khamisa said he calculated an amount of over $260,000 for all legal fees, though he admitted this was a conservative calculation and the actual deficit may be a little lower at the end of the year.
Okyere, on the other hand, said he spoke with a financial advisor and that the legal fees will not exceed $185,000.
In addition to extra funds for services and clubs, Okyere said he intends to review the wages and benefits of full- and part-time CUSA employees — something Khamisa said he isn’t happy with.
“I am not pleased in the callbacks that are related to salaries, benefits and wages,” he said.
“I proposed my budget in a way I thought it should be,” he continued. “I think it’s extremely fiscally irresponsible for the president of this association to callback on the salaries, but it’s clear that the council supported it, so I didn’t vote in favour or against the budget.”
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