By Max van Geuns
— With a projected budget deficit of 26,500 euros at the end of this academic year, Willemijn de Hoop, a second-year Science major, was the only candidate brave enough to apply for the Treasury of the Amsterdam University College Student Association (AUCSA) of 2018-2019. After two years of overspending and budget cuts, she is taking the high road with a five-year payback plan and more sponsor deals.
It has not been an easy year for committees in the AUCSA. Party committee Solace had to ask higher prices for their events, Webradio’s audio interface for talk shows has been cut away, and student magazine Scriptus had to cancel two issues to save 450 euros. On top of that, Junket’s total budget for excursions was reduced by 492 euros, resulting in a budget cut of 40 percent in their yearly hitchhike trip. However, the biggest issues concern the overarching AUCSA Board.
Having started with a deficit of 39,000 euros, the current Board decided to apply a strategy of significant budget cuts. This resulted in almost 18,000 euros from all budget proposals not making it through the October General Assembly (GA). Treasurer Charlotte Kroese, a second-year Social Science major, presented a budget that would result in a deficit of ‘only’ 10,000 euros. But soon after the GA, this loss crawled up to 24,000 euros. After the February GA, the projected deficit nearly reached the original level with a net result of minus 36,900 euros.
Where does the mounting budget deficit of the AUCSA come from? The main problem is the never-ending list of liabilities. This year’s AUCSA inherited a lot of them. First, this was the effect of initial ‘over budgeting’ and under spending of all committees in the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year. To make full use of the available budget, that year’s AUCSA Board then encouraged committees to spend all money that was budgeted for during the year. However, this resulted in overspending; committees started spending money that the AUCSA never had.
Second, committee members submitted their final invoices and reimbursements after the official deadline last summer. Due to this, last year’s Treasurer Andy O’daab had to pay bills of committee members out of his own pocket. This is already undesirable, but it also resulted in current students having to spend money on events for last year’s students. And of course, O’daab had to be reimbursed, which partly explains the increasing deficit over this academic year.
Although the deficit will still be around 26,500 euros (after extra budget cuts have been made recently), there is enough reason to remain positive. The net deficit is decreasing, there is now an acquisitions team to get sponsors, and some budget cuts were actually appropriate. Dormfest’s budget is cut down to 4500 euros, having been responsible for part of last year’s liabilities with a total loss of 8000 euros. O’daab is happy with this measure of his successor Kroese: “Who throws a minus 8000 party when you are already tens of thousands in the minus?”
After the administrations of O’daab and Kroese, who consecutively applied the opposite strategies of over budgeting and budget cuts, De Hoop has been elected as next year’s Treasurer. Although she was the only candidate, which may raise questions about her capabilities, she is an administrative heavyweight inside the AUC community: De Hoop has been active in Jeugdlab, Barcrew, SlayUC, Dormfest, and TEDxAUCollege.
Arthur McLaren, a second-year Social Science major, who has been Treasurer of Solace since January 2017, hopes that De Hoop will “take the high road between the laidback attitude of last year’s AUCSA and the stringency of this year’s Board.” From what De Hoop is planning to do, this seems to be the case. She wants to work more closely together with Audit, the commission that checks AUCSA’s finances, and she says she will need to be just as strict with the total budget as Kroese is now.
On the other hand, De Hoop criticizes this year’s AUCSA Board for not informing the community and its committees enough about budgets, income and expenditure. “I think that this miscommunication and some miscalculations are some of the major causes of the deficit,” she says. Also, she doubts whether it was realistic to settle such a large part of the deficit this year. “It is unfair towards the AUCSA members, whose fees would go to paying off liabilities of previous years,” she says. “Getting rid of such a big deficit is not something you can do in one year.”
De Hoop’s strategy will thus be to work away the budget deficit in a couple of years. Assuming that around 25,000 euros of liabilities will be transferred to her, she will construct a five-year plan to pay it off. “That means that each year, only one tenth of the membership fees will be used for the liabilities,” she says.
Although De Hoop expects new sponsor deals to be a big part of next year’s income, she thinks it is reasonable that committees cannot search for their own sponsors. “We do not want each and every committee to individually approach Spar and Maslow at the same time,” she says. “But we have to assemble an acquisitions team from day one. Beforehand, we will approach the teams from other UC’s. I know it is working for them, so it just has to work for us as well.”
Photo Credits: AUCSA
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.