Pic Cred: https://www.etsy.com/market/brain_art
Due North sat down with Dr. Jacqueline Pettersen a cognitive neurologist at the University of Northern British Columbia, and learned all about studies involving Vitamin D. According to Dr. Pettersen, people are not getting enough Vitamin D these days. This problem is especially bad here in northern communities like Prince George. The lack of Vitamin D can affect brain function and bone development. Dr. Pettersen told CFUR that an increase in the intake of Vitamin D can help improve certain aspects of memory. Especially in the long winter months here in Prince George. Check out our interview and learn more.
Interview with Dr. Jacqueline Pettersen
Photo Credit: UNBC Website
The Northern Undergraduate Student Society held their election over March 20th -21st, and here are the results. Along with the student representatives who were elected so was a referendum question. A pamphlet given out by NUGSS characterizes the question for the student to understand. "As a member of the Undergraduate Student Society, you "As a member of the Undergraduate Student Society, you have a say in whether or not you want your student fees to increase by $6.50. The first goal of this fee is to ensure the Thirsty Moose Pub continues to be operated by the society into the following school years."
Yes - 349 (Passed)
No - 124
Spoiled - 10
David, Schroeter - 113
Searle, Erik - 311 (Elected)
None of the above - 10
Abstained - 42
Spoiled - 7
Director of Internal Affairs
Freel, Keaton - 176
Jex, Seth - 259 (Elected)
None of the above - 10
Abstained - 42
Spoiled - 4
Director of External Affairs
Campbell, Dara - 208 (Elected)
Jensen-LeBlanc, Kristian - 87
None of the above - 29
Abstained - 147
Spoiled - 4
Director of Finance: King, Chris
Yes - 323
No - 31
Abstain - 122
Spoiled - 11
Director of Student Affairs: O'Meara, Janelle
Yes - 319
No - 31
Abstain - 122
Spoiled - 11
Sustainability Rep: Snider, Raychill
Yes - 343
No - 29
Abstain - 105
Spoiled - 6
Women's Rep: Johnny-Turbide, Kasandra
Yes - 308
No - 34
Abstain - 128
Spoiled - 13
Aboriginal Rep: Karista Olson
Yes - 312
No - 24
Abstain - 10
Spoiled - 137
Spending on the rise over the years
On March 20th and 21st student are being asked to go to the polls to vote in a new NUGSS executive for 2017/2018. While they are at the polls, they will also be asked about increasing student fee's by $6.50 to cover the Thirsty Moose Pub deficit which in June 2016, according to audited report by KPMG, was ($38,565). NUGSS spending that year increased by 11% to the tune of $129,972 from $1,048,686 to $1,176,658. This is not new; the Moose has for years been a failing business, unable to sustain itself on its own.
Students are being asked to give more money to NUGSS to help alleviate the deficit of the Moose. However, in the year 2015/2016 the spending of NUGSS appears to have gone up. Expenses for the pub went up by $16,195, which is only a 3% increase from $410,291 to $426,486. One of the biggest increases was in the line item called "Insurance," that went up by 52% or $17,665. Other increases were: "Bank charges and interest" which increase by 29% or $2015; "Office and general" which increased by 52% to $7,273. However, not all items increased. The line item "Equipment" decreased by 95% it went from $1,072 to $48.
This year 2016/2017 NUGSS has been focused on reducing costs, however at the EGM they stated that even this year they will still be running deficits. It is likely the deficits will be covered by other funds. The financial statements for this year will not be available till after June 2017. Only time will tell whether spending went down this year or if costs are still sky high. CFUR reached out to NUGSS for comment and clarity on the increases of various line items, and this is what NUGSS they had to say.
Comments by Duncan Malkinson, General Manager of NUGSS:
Quote: "I just wanted to put the disclaimer out there that if the intent is to demonstrate the fragile financial state of the Thirsty Moose Pub, or NUGSS generally, you should find ample evidence in the historical statements that demonstrate that. The purpose of the referendum as the Board of Directors ordered me, through a combination of fee increases and price increases, to find a way for the Thirsty Moose to stay under the management of NUGSS, so that students could make the decision on whether or not to keep the Thirsty Moose as is.
If the referendum question is endorsed by the student body, the Board has mentioned that it will either; if yes, ask me to continue to build a business plan to improve financial performance in the Moose and across all NUGSS’ businesses; or if no, have myself identify leasing options or keep the pub closed come September.
There some are strong arguments for the Thirsty Moose to be attempted to be leased. Financial Liability to the society would decrease, a lot of existing effort by NUGSS staff to ensure the operation of the commercial side of NUGSS, with 40 employees and all the obligations to maintain that come along with that.
Since coming to my role, I’ve noted the importance of focus on financial analysis and saw some areas that were particular vulnerabilities for the society. This led me to recommend that the society hires a bookkeeper to ensure that NUGSS was keeping up to its financial obligations in a timely way and that I’d have enough time to scrutinize current vulnerabilities and do some financial planning.
So generally, you’ll see some variances between the years because some of the items were coded differently, and I came into my role four months before the end of the fiscal year end, which made it hard to find what expenses from the previous months were. Regardless, I’ll try my best here to answer these questions.
Also, these statements are consolidated. They mix certain expense accounts into broader categories to allow people to see what matters are like generally. The consolidation is work that KPMG performs, not I, so it is a little challenging to see what the exact components of each of the increases or decreases are."
[Original questions about KPMG audited report for 2015/2016 sent by CFUR]
1. NUGSS had an 11% increase in spending this year from 2015 to the tune of $129,972. Revenue only increase by .037% or %38,685. What factors contributed to the increase in spending?
Quote: "As mentioned at the AGM in November, some of the components of the increase in expenses are Health and Dental remittances being higher than normal [39,356] because of the preservation of plan benefits; high expenses in the pub [ ranging from minimum wage increases to high repairs and maintenance expenses, increased food and liquor costs]; in degrees  [increased labour and food purchases because of the rollout of some different food plans]; and in Wages and Benefits  which are discussed a little further down."
2. What expenses are under the line item "Committees"? This line item had a 60% increase or $8,175 what factors contributed to this increase?
Quote: "This is an account that KPMG Consolidates. It’s made up of three accounts:
- Acct #5050 Student Handbook expense- $11,409.08 (PY- $5,236.88)
Because BCFS, who provides these services to NUGSS, made the decision to go ahead with the organization of these services solely in BC, there were some price increases on the components. 14-15 was the last year that the BCFS benefited from the Canadian Federation of Students' scale, and 15-16 these services were organized solely in BC; driving expenses up.
- Acct #5068 Board Social event expense- $97.12 (PY- $0)-
- Acct #5234 Orientation expense- $1,905.33 (PY- $0) This difference was because the purchase of Jars and Stickers for orientation were put into this account, as opposed to office supplies or some similar account."
3. The line item "Wages and benefits" also increase by 16% or $24,043 what factors contributed to this and were more staff hired this year?
Quote: "No more or extra NUGSS staff were hired this year compared to 13/14. If you’re referring to the last fiscal year [15/16] The answer would be yes, there were extra staff hired in September, as our front desk person moved into an education program, and NUGSS struggled to keep the 9-4 front desk business hours on a reliable basis. Because of this, two people were hired to fill the front desk position, where the total hours would be split, and the previous front desk person continued to fill the role of Ombudsperson while front desk persons were trained. I don’t believe these changes were expected to greatly impact the budget.
On the other hand, given that there was no Food and Beverage Manager in the Moose for over half a year, some of the duties expected of that position fell on NUGSS staff, so some hourly employees needed to come in on weekends to do some pub tasks, and keep up with the traffic that the Ombudsperson normally sees, as the front desk staff were not able to fill that role yet. There were some vacation payouts that had built up over previous years as well, but they had a minimal impact on this.
As well, there was a servers' minimum wage increase that took place in the fall of 2015 and another in the fall of 2016. This is important to consider because an adjustment made by KPMG after the audit for 26,096.87, was “to adjust Payroll Taxes payable for April, May and June payments that were made in July.” A portion of these remittances are related to TMP/Degrees wages, which would help explain why the TMP wages were down $19,557 from 2015 and NUGSS wages were up $24,042; an overall increase in $4,485 for the Society as a whole."
Thirsty Moose Specifically
1. A 52%, $17,665, increase in the line item "Insurance" was noted this year what was the cause of this increase?
Quote: "Insurance expenses generally increased for the Society from 2014/2015, but part of the increase that you see is that some more Insurance expense was assigned to the Thirsty Moose, instead of the NUGSS society as a whole, as management felt that more fairly reflected the costs of the Thirsty Moose, rather than the Society.
In 14/15, a portion of the NUSC Insurance was reallocated by KPMG to the general insurance account, and in 15/16, this reallocation wasn’t made.
Looking back to 13/14, the total insurance was $50,112, so the 15/16 amounts seem to be more in line with 13/14 than 14/15."
2. A 29%, $2015, increase in the line item "Bank charges and interest" was also noted this year what was the cause of this increase?
Quote: "Bank Charges and Interest had some Moneris (Debit Terminal) charges from the other degrees locations rolled into the moose. Normally they’re separated out, but challenges with the changeover from the previous manager to myself made it more difficult to separate them across all the revenue centers.
An adjustment by KPMG [6201.96] made at year end reallocated a lot of these debit terminal charges to this category."
3. A 52%, $7,273, increase in the line item "Office and general" was also noted this year what was the cause of this increase?
Quote: "Components of this account are:
Liquor Licenses: $2405.00
Business Licenses: $1148.00
Hosting and Meetings: $3486.46 this account had some expenses for programming and catering expenses coded to it that would be more accurately recorded on other areas for the pub.
The Moose had some big breakdowns in 2015/2016 that caused staff to have to contract out to have fixed. As well, there was a leak noticed in one of our compressed lines rather late, causing us to order more compressed gas than normal for a period."
4. A 95%, ($1,024), decrease, in the line item "Equipment" was also noted this year what was the cause of this decrease?
Quote: "This is because a greater focus was placed on repair and maintenance over the year."
Were these increases taken into consideration before deciding to move forward on a referendum on increasing student fees?
Quote: "Generally speaking, the increases seen from year to year have fluctuated as the Moose has existed. For example, Insurance expenses changed from $46,768 in 2009 to $22,403 in 2010. The consistent piece that is very obvious, however, is the poor performance of the Moose. What’s been obvious since coming into my current role, is that many of the societies resources are poured in to ensuring the operation of the Moose. It drives professional (accounting, bookkeeping, insurance, payroll) costs up and takes a significant portion of the General Society wage expenses to run. As I’ve mentioned to my bosses and the Students in attendance at the AGM, poor performances outlined here demonstrate that the society is overstretching itself to be doing anything very well at all.
But to answer your question, the increases seen last year were taken into consideration, as the Board of Directors, in an attempt to be conservative in its fiscal estimates given the fragile state of the cash flows of the society, and with a focus on break even at the end of the year included the increases seen last year in their budgeted estimates for this year. The budgeted amounts for the Moose provided a basis for the revenue needed for students to be able to decide on whether the Moose should stay under the management of NUGSS so that NUGSS can continue to find a more sustainable operating model that reduces the financial drain on the society as a whole."
It is clear that the Moose is a huge part of campus culture. Students utilize the Moose often to let off steam and relax. It is also clear that the Moose is an economic drag on the organization. The question students need to ask themselves in this upcoming referendum is simply should NUGSS continue to run a pub. Historically they have not been able to make it a successful business. However, the opposite position might state that to make a pub work in a location like UNBC you almost need it to be run by a non-profit like NUGSS.
Regardless of where you stand the question will be posed to you on March 20th and 21st. For more information go to CFUR.ca.
**Update NUGSS Audit Financial Report 2015/2016** https://nugss.unbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2016-final.pdf
By Grant Bachand, News Director of CFUR Radio, Twitter @grantbachand
NUGSS held their EGM, and many issues came up during it. One of the first things to come up was a controversial agenda amendment, to add a bylaw that would add an Oversight Committee that would be made up of 5 elected students. This item has led to already one board member resigning.
NUGSS is also currently running a deficit with the Thirsty Moose of approximately $23,005. NUGSS will not be able to cover the deficit, and it is unclear how it will be covered fully. Borrowing funds to cover the deficit was not fully answered, so it may not be off the table.
Restructuring the Board
The NUGSS Board was restructured to be reduced from 11 student representatives to 8 plus the chairperson. A new position would be created by merging the Academic Rep and the VP Social into one position. By cutting the positions, it will affect $8,500 in honorarium
Thirsty Moose Pub
To save the Thirsty Moose Pub from closure, a referendum was proposed. The question that would be asked "Are you for an increase to the NUGSS Society Fee by way of $6.50 (bringing the total amount to $42.19) to cover the Thirsty Moose Pub's financial losses projected for the future.
This fee is required to make it financial[ly] viable for the Northern Undergraduate Student Society to continue operating the Thirsty Moose Pub; if this referendum fails, management will investigating leasing options starting Fall 2017, with the possibility of total closure if this is not successful."
Due to declining student enrollment at UNBC, The Thirsty Moose on its own can not financially cover its costs purely by is own sales. The fee increase would be permanent to support the financial viability of the Moose, help for repairs and create a contingency fund. The fee would only apply to the Prince George campus and not to the regional ones.
If the Moose were not kept by NUGSS, then a public tender would be put forward to the Prince George business community. The leasing discussions that NUGSS need to have in order to do this are still going on with the University. According to the General Manager, Duncan Malkinson, of NUGSS the Board would review various applications and then would suggest a specific vendor to the university for final approval.
Proponents of the Oversight Board Chris King and Erik Searle
A purposed motion to adopt an Oversight Board for NUGSS, failed when it was brought forward to a divided student body. A requirement to have 75% of the quorum of the room was needed to pass the bylaw. Even though more students voted for the motion than against there was not enough support on the floor for it.
The motion stated that a student elected board be created to give a level of oversight to the student elect board. The structure is five equal voting members elected by the student body at the same time every year as the regular NUGSS elections. The powers of this board would be: an ability to scrutinize and approve monthly director's reports; to under extreme circumstances, with sufficient grounds, and with the support of at least 4 of the 5 members of the Oversight Board bring a motion of censure, suspension, or impeachment against a member of the NUGSS Board of Directors. The responsibilities would include: to attend monthly meetings and hear monthly reports from the board of directors; to consistently act in the best interest of NUGSS; at least four members of the oversight board must be in attendance to meet quorum. This information is based off "NUGSS Needs an Oversight Board" Facebook page.
Arguments were passionate on both sides of the issue with some students accusing certain members of the board were conducting personal attacks on others. "NUGSS is prone to embezzlement" was used by an NUGSS board member to describe the current state of NUGSS, this is why the Oversight Board is necessary. It should be stated that embezzlement is defined "as theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one's trust or belonging to one's employer". It is unclear if the definition is what is being applied in this case.
According to the proponents of the motion the NUGSS board members, the director reports, need to be reviewed. This is because some members of the NUGSS board member look at the reports as a "tedious bureaucratic mechanism." This would ensure the NUGSS board can ensure that the students who serve on it are spending the 50 hours a week devoted to NUGSS related activities.
A motion which was put forward by Seth Jex was to push this recommendation to next AGM which would be in October 2017. It was defeated after the majority of students wanted to make a decision of the board during the EGM. The motivation for prolonging a decision on this issue was based on accusations made by Jex that the bylaw was containing numerous "errors". The proponents admitted that the errors and amendment could be made to make it a better.
After a 3 hour meeting, the motion did fail however the students who brought forward the motion were happy to see so many students coming out to debate this important issue. It is unclear if this issue will be brought in the upcoming NUGSS election, however, some students who CFUR spoke to seem to believe that it will. It is clear that a majority of the students in the room wanted to see the Oversight Board happen.
Interview with students after EGM
CFUR News reported yesterday after the NUGSS annual general meeting that the organization was coming on hard times. We sat down with Eric Depenau who is the Vice President of Finance for NUGSS.
Listen to the Full Interview here:
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At present NUGSS is facing a $99,000 dollar deficit and $49,000 short term debt load for a loan taken out in 2010 to deal with operational revenue short falls. The final aspect to the NUGSS debt loan is on $1.8 million for a loan used to renovate the NUSC space when NUGSS originally started leasing the space from UNBC.
The loan which was originally for $100,000 and was from Bank of Montreal was taken out in 2010.
Subleasing the Thirsty Moose space, Degrees coffee shop as well as the office spaces on the top floor of the NUSC are one of a couple options NUGSS is looking at to balance the budget. Other options are raising the prices of food, or even the possible closure of the Thirsty Moose Pub and Degrees. Right now NUGSS is in talks with some outside groups to take over these business however nothing is definitive and they may not even go down that road, Depenau stressed.
Depenau stressed the idea that the past boards of NUGSS did the best job they could with the information they had. He also felt strongly that these austerity should put NUGSS in a better position as long as they also stick to long term planning. It is unclear after this interview if insitutional measures around accountability will be put in place after this trouble but on thing is sure NUGSS is keeping an open mind.
For more information: http://www.cfur.ca/nugss-hits-rough-waters/
*Updated as new information is learned*
The Northern Undergraduate Student Society got some stark news from their auditor KPMG that shows the organization has taken losses year over year. The historical mismanagement of funds has led to a $100,000 debt to BC Transit for the Upass. NUGSS hopes to repay this back by the end of BC Transits fiscal year however that will require strict austerity measures.
According to KPMG “Negative cash flows from operations in the current year and has a working capital and general fund deficiency … these conditions, along with other matters indicate the existence of material uncertainties that may cast significant doubt about UNBC Northern Undergraduate Student Societies ability to continue as an ongoing concern”.
One of the first measures NUGSS is taking is to work with the university to ensure that student fee's go up to match CPI indexing. This was approved by the student population in 2012 but was never acted on, and therefore "tens of thousands" of dollars has been lost according to NUGSS.
The student health and dental reserve fund has not be properly built up over the years. The funds that were supposed to be going into this reserve were being allocated to general revenue instead. That has been changed and for the future funds will now consistently go to this fund in order to ensure that there is a backup in place.
The Student and Conference building is another area of concern. According to NUGSS $373,341 in "Building Fees" that ensure the upkeep of the Student Centre building, have also been going to operating costs instead. NUGSS plans to pull back on the spending of "building fees" for general operation over the years in order to build up a backup fund for the buildings repairs and maintenance needs.
In order to meet these mounting problems the Moose and Degrees are being looked at. Both NUGSS businesses lose money and it has been stated that that must to change. The board has asked management to look into possible solutions for both organizations. Reductions in hours, raising costs of products, leasing out of space to other organizations, or possibly even the closure of the business all together are on the table.
Other changes NUGSS will be looking at:
- The board of NUGSS is looking to cut the current boards pay by 7.27%
- General Manager volunteered to cut pay by 20%
- Decrease MAC funding by 20% until current obligations are met
- Get more tenants along the top floor of NUSC
- Current tenants, Example CFUR, Over the Edge, Pride Centre, PGPIRG, will begin to be charged
- Will not be shouldering the financial burden of Northern Students Give Back next year
- GM to reduce risk and cost of the Backyard BBQ next year
- No plans for direct oversight of NUGGS is on the table
These changes are by far extensive and far reaching however according to NUGSS necessary to ensure the past years of financial mismanagement are remedied.
*Update 10/27/2016* When asked about whether the financial mismanagement in the past would prompt more oversight of NUGSS. General Manager Duncan Malkinson replied that it is the purpose of the annual general meeting to hold NUGSS accountable.
Grant Bachand - News Director, @grantbachand