This summer, I had the challenge of creating a balanced budget that would deal with the challenges of the student choice initiative and the uncertainties that came with that. It was stressful, it was challenging, it was kind of fun. Here’s my update on your 2019-2020 MES Budget.
When we started the year, we set off immediately working on a 5-tier budget that would incorporate enough flexibility for different opt-out rates that we could face throughout the year. Eventually we settled on tiers ranging from 15% opt-out to 75% opt-out of the student fees. Each one of the 5 tiers had to be balanced, which came with varying degrees of difficulty, and a lot of hard work. Additionally, large expenses related to administration and events occurring early in the year could not be changed, which further leveraged the impact which the Student Choice Initiative would have on us. Nevertheless, by the end of the summer, we had a working budget, and it was approved at the first council meeting on September 8th, 2019.
Following the results of the Student Choice Initiative opt-out period at the end of September, the MES was affected by an opt-out rate of 29.17%. This means that we will be working in the 30% opt-out bracket of the budget for the rest of the year, and we can move forward with a great deal more certainty than we had throughout the summer. We were overall really happy with a 29% opt-out rate, but it does not come without its concerns.
First, a 30% drop in operating budget is a massive change for an organization the size of the MES. We have worked hard throughout the past 6 months to limit the cuts which will affect you, however there will invariably be some cuts which need to be made to maintain a balanced budget.
In addition, a 29% opt-out rate means that 29% of students do not view their MES membership as being valuable enough to justify the fee. It is a strong reminder of the space we have to grow, and the fact that there are many individuals out there who we need to serve better in the future. We are working to collect information about how we can better serve everyone in the faculty of engineering; and to those who did opt-out, I hope that you can help us serve you better in the future.
Overall, we did it, and we can now look forward to improving the future. We are running a committee specifically tailored towards understanding the opt-out process better, and will be running a town hall later in the year to hear from everyone; we are collecting data on our services through initiatives such as the MES Fall Student Survey and other avenues to attempt to develop services that serve you best; we are developing a centralized sponsorship model to attempt to reduce the impact of opt-out in future years; and we are actively improving our communication services to ensure you know the services which you have available to you. We have a lot of big plans in the works, and we are looking forward to help continue to improve this community in the future.
A huge thank you to the executive team for all of your help, the MES clubs and teams for your patience, the faculty for the support, and to all of the people who helped cool me down when I got stressed out about this whole situation. It has been a blast.