By Cristina Miceli
– After two years of underspending, the debt of the AUC Student Association (AUCSA) has finally been paid off. According to Willemijn de Hoop, current treasurer of the AUCSA, the association will be financially healthy again by the end of the semester.
With a projected budget deficit of 26.500 euros at the end of May 2018, a debt-free AUCSA seemed like a dream. When De Hoop got elected, she attempted to tackle this issue through a five-year pay-back plan. However, the plan turned out to be unnecessary as the actual deficit was smaller than expected. Indeed, De Hoop started the academic year with a debt of only 6.800 euros.
According to De Hoop, there was an underspending problem during the first semester of the 2016-2017 academic year. In the second semester, the AUCSA Budget General Assembly (GA) decided to make up by overspending. However, “It was too much and then invoices came in from the year before which they did not take into account,” said De Hoop. This caused a deficit of 37.000 euros at the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic year.
Charlotte Kroese, treasurer of the AUCSA during this period, succeeded in ending the year with a debt of only 6.800 euros. Berend Jansen, vice-treasurer of the 2017-2018 AUCSA board, said that the debt reduction was achieved by cutting committees’ costs, for instance by organising fewer events and increasing ticket prices.
One of the reasons behind such a high projected budget deficit, compared to the real one, was the difference between expected expenditure versus real expenditure. According to the Annual Report of 2017-2018, the AUCSA expected a total expense of 183.133 euros, but the academic year ended with a total expense of only 168.346 euros. Several committees spent less money than predicted. For instance, De Hoop said that the Dormfest committee, an AUCSA committee that annually organises a day-long festival, was expected to spend 6.500 euros but ended up saving approximately 4.000 euros.
To foresee a debt is quite complicated. “It’s not that you have actual debt at the bank,” said De Hoop, “you have open invoices.” Usually, open invoices should be paid back within four weeks. However, companies tend to be flexible with the deadlines.
At the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year, the debt was only 6.800 euros. During the 31st AUCSA Budget GA, which took place in October, a budget that covered all the past liabilities was approved. Starting with approximately 50.000 euros, the GA devoted 6.800 euros to pay last year’s open invoices. This year came and passed with no big monetary surprises, and therefore, according to De Hoop, the AUCSA can now be declared debt-free.
However, Ludovica Schaerf, a member of AUDIT, a commission whose main role is to check the AUCSA expenses, claims that at the end of the semester the AUCSA will save up to 10.000 euros. “There is no point in saving up all this money,” said Schaerf.
According to Schaerf, the committees that ask for a huge budget, over 3.000 euros, are not responsible for this underspending, but the ones that ask for less money are. For instance, the Zen committee, whose main aim is to relieve students from their stress through yoga sessions, meditation and self-growth workshops, realised only three out of six of the events proposed during the 31st AUCSA Budget GA. The money invested in projects that do not take place is saved for next year or used by the same committee for other events.
Emily Volovitz, one of the members of the Zen committee, said that when the GA does not devote enough money to one of their projects they need to increase ticket prices. This frequently results in a lack of participation and the consequent cancellation of the event.
As July is approaching, a new AUCSA treasurer enters the scene. Julien Vandermosten, now fully acquitted from any debt, has to find a way to maintain the financial equilibrium.
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.