A proposed budget recently released by the Concordia Student Union revealed thousands of dollars spent on taxis, meals, and promotional items. Food and transportation expenses incurred by executives recorded between June, 2007 and January, 2008 roughly amounted to $6,500.
The financial document lists CSU President Angelica Novoa with an expense account of $1,500, of which she has spent $1,000 so far, and $750 for VP Communications Noah Stewart, who has spent just under $500. However, both executives have expensed dozens of other meals and taxi rides which are not listed under their respective expense accounts, but under “campaigns” and “orientation.”
The single largest expense of this nature is $230, made by Novoa, on “transportation and meetings” recorded back in October. The smallest expense recorded was made by VP Academic Shandell Jack, which was $7.
“Several of the executives (notably Noah and Angelica) need to be very mobile. From meetings around town, to visiting university unions, to meetings with various faculty associations and so on. Expenses such as taxis and meals occur rather frequently,” wrote VP Finance Fauve Castagna, who replied to The Concordian via e-mail.
“If you’re in the CSU, you’re forced to live a pretty expensive lifestyle,” said Stewart in an interview, who explained that he must attend several meetings a day and they are often scheduled back-to-back. He said it leaves him no time to take public transportation.
According to him, meetings also often occur over lunch and dinner. The executives also work long periods, so Stewart said it wasn’t fair if executives would have to pay for these meals.
Both Stewart and Castagna stressed that the executives’ salaries, roughly $21,000 yearly before taxes, is a meager sum which is “right at the poverty line.”
“It would be difficult and extremely inequitable to assume that executives should not only be forced to work 60-plus hours per week, but should be expected to cover work-related expenses out of their own pockets,” said Castagna.
“We can certainly pay ourselves more so that we have less in our [expense accounts],” joked Stewart.
Listed under “community expenses:” food, supplies, a rental car and lodging was expensed for an executives’ conference which took place at the beginning of June, 2007 when executives from last year’s Experience slate spent several days with Unity executives to discuss the coming year for the CSU. The retreat cost just under $2,500.
“It’s a yearly tradition that’s been done as far back as I can remember,” said Stewart.
CSU-branded bottle openers
The budget listed an expense of close to $700 for “1,500 CSU bottle openers” as well as just under $1,000 for “CSU branded tablecloths.” Both were listed under “communications” within the budget.
When asked if these two items were necessary, Stewart said that visibility for the CSU is important because it informs students of the available services. If not enough students are aware of the services, money and resources would go to waste.
“Like any organization, there are promotional costs involved in putting the CSU out there,” he said.
“[The items] were there to remind people coming back to university that the CSU is there to offer services [during orientation],” he added.
Castagna, whose job is to approve and evaluate expenditures, claims that the items were “competitively priced.”
“To begin with, the bottle openers represent 1,500 openers and there were three table cloths (all guaranteed for quality). Please do not think that these are regular tablecloths with a CSU logo on them. These items are used for public events such as mezzanine tabling, speakers’ series appearances and so on,” she wrote.
Both executives stressed that a great deal of income was created from sponsorship and advertising deals during orientation and the making of the handbook.
Though orientation cost just under $165,000 this year for the two weeks of events and concerts, sponsorship deals, sales from concession stands as well as grants from the university generated $132,000 – leaving students to pay roughly $23,000.
According to the budget, advertising deals for the 2007-2008 handbook came in at just under $85,000, a figure which Castagna said surpassed the previous year’s deals by $20,000.