Union estimates €27k surplus in 2019 after €1 million spend

UCD Students' Union President Barry Murphy presented the proposed budget for the academic year 2018/2019 at Union Council yesterday evening, where student representatives questioned payroll spend, election costs and allocations for IT.

Contrary to early reports, council members were informed that the Union expects to post a surplus of approximately €27,000 for the end of the year to June 2019. Responding to questions over an operating deficit of €46,651, Murphy stated that a great deal of the Union's core work, such as running campaigns, had low associated costs and that the company should endeavour to spend money when it can. The Union President stated that it was on the advice on their accountant that they were seeking to spend more money than the company would bring in.

Council heard that the Union had almost €70,000 in reserves from last year and that the budget estimated a total expenditure of approximately €41,000 for the current academic year.

However, Murphy admitted that the Union was finding it difficult to meet the spending budget, warning that if they didn't spend the money they were given, the Union would not be allocated the same amount of funding next year.

Income for the year is predicted to hit €983,950, including €650,000 in capitation paid to the Union by University College Dublin and €100,000 in services income. €95,000 is anticipated from Union shops while sponsorships and Leap Card sales will net an estimated €51,300.

The Union will spend an estimated €1,030,601, over half of which is payroll costs for Union sabbatical officers, office staff and the staff of The University Observer. Questions over payroll cropped up from members of council, with Murphy stating that while he was happy to disclose the amount he was paid, this would not be the norm for office staff and he would not do so without their consent. Murphy also stated that the true rate of pay received by sabbatical officers is below minimum wage given the number of hours worked.

The budget predicts that Ents events cost the Union €79,000 for the year, while bringing in €59,000 in ticket sales. Buses to the exam centre in the RDS at Christmas cost the union less than €10,000.

Elections costs, which are set to total €35,000 this year, are set to be trimmed in future years, as Murphy stated that he wanted to provide students with the option to vote online.

Although online voting will not be available to students for the sabbatical and college officer elections later in semester 2, it will be available for class representative elections next year, according to Murphy. In relation to the Union's IT costs, circling near €18,000, Murphy told student representatives that the allocation goes towards website maintenance, noting that the Union's website, which sabbaticals say is complex to update, will be changed to a more user-friendly platform before the sabbatical officer elections this year.

Council representatives have previously expressed frustration that the website has not been updated to include details of this year's college officers, showing instead last year's college officers.

Staff training was budgeted to cost €16,750 for the year, with Murphy adding that there needs to be more spent on training college officers and class reps. When asked about the training the sabbatical officers have received, Welfare Officer Melissa Plunkett told council that she completed her mandated ASIST training in September 2018. Murphy told council that the sabbatical officers had undergone disclosure training with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) in the summer of 2018, but admitted that some sabbatical officers had not completed their mental health training.

Murphy also stated that if a sabbatical officer were to take "the two days off to undergo the training" in semester 2, that other areas would suffer, before saying that training is being embedded into next year's team.

In the President's report, Murphy said that he hoped to cover the smoking area of the Clubhouse to increase the capacity, as long queues were an issue he noticed at the Christmas Day event last December. Murphy also mentioned that the refurbishment of the Engineering seating area, beside the SU shop, was an ongoing project which had been delayed due to issues in management.

Council was also told that about €5,000 was raised by bucket collectors during RAG Week. While Murphy did not have a total figure raised for RAG Week at the time of council, he stated that the Union also received a number corporate donations.

Last year, the Union managed to raise €82,595 for Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Pieta House during RAG Week 2018, a figure which surprised many given the costs associated with organising a carnival behind the Students Centre and the low turnout throughout the week. The total amount included money from RAG Week, the Fashion Show and Darkness into Light.

President Murphy also informed Council that the college officer for Agriculture, Food Science and Vet, Amy Mulchrone had vacated her position following persistent absence from meetings of the Union Executive.

Source from within the Union told The University Observer that Mulchrone had been absent from at least four of seven Executive meetings, which she was required to attend as part of her role. Murphy stated that this was "disappointing" and unfair on those who had contested Mulchrone for the position last year.

A special by-election will be held to fill the vacancy. Elected class representatives from Agriculture, Food Science and Vet will be eligible to nominate themselves for the position of college officer.

Social Science Class Representative Brian Tracey raised the point at council that some students had to pay in to Coppers on the Tuesday night of RAG Week. Campaigns and Communications Officer Tom Monaghan apologised and noted that it was the fault of the Union. Murphy was quick to correct him, stating that the fault lied with the event organiser and door staff at Coppers, who he said had apologised to the Union's event management team.

Plunkett told council that in support of the INMO's decision to strike on Wednesday 30th January, UCDSU will be organising a rally outside the Health Science building on campus. When asked why a more public location had not been chosen for the rally to attract media attention, Plunkett explained that they could not rally outside a hospital due to union rules.

Education Officer Stephen Crosby told Council of a number of scholarships available from the Union, including travel scholarships available to students going on Erasmus and a grant under the Cygnet Programme, which provides grants for business or social enterprises which would benefit the UCD community.

Interested students should contact Crosby at education@ucdsu.ie for further details.