Hundreds of thousands of your fee dollars are sitting in AMS fund reserves

The 2020/21 AMS Funds and Fees Report shows hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting in reserves unspent.

The report comes after discussions around repurposing three underspent funds — sourced from student fees that were established by referendum — to bail the AMS out.

Despite having brought up to Council the idea of reallocating these funds to pay off the AMS’s $666,000 deficit as projected in January, AMS VP Finance Lucia Liang said that the AMS is not looking at repurposing any funds for that use.

The only time the AMS would consider repurposing a fund is if students no longer needed the fund for its purpose, she said.

Some of the unused funds include the Bursary Emergency Aid Fund, collected as part of the $43.15 AMS membership fee, which had no activities this year to date. The current reserve balance is $707,048.46. The Child Care Fund, sourced from a $1.17 fee, also had no expenditures year to date and has a reserve balance of $294,843.12.

“They’re not necessarily underspent, and the report is giving an overview of the overall balance and how much was spent on each fund, year to date,” said Liang. According to Liang, most spending takes place near the end of the year so the report does not truly reflect AMS spending for the 2020/21 year. The current report can be thought of as “a snapshot of half of the year for our funds,” said Liang.

The AMS has made two major changes to increase spending and reduce fund balances. First, Liang says the AMS has started to “loosen restrictions this year,” for example by allowing new clubs to get money from the Clubs Benefit Fund. Second, the AMS has created new initiatives such as a mental health subsidy and a video conferencing grant to help clubs online.

While large reserves are accumulated over many years, the money from those reserves is allowed to be used solely for purposes set out for the fund. Combined with the annual collection of student fees, some reserves go untouched.

According to Liang, the reserve money is there to protect the fund and aid in the event a large project comes along.

“The reserves are built for different reasons,” she said. “Some could be there’s not enough application, some could be communication wasn’t as strong one year, other things could be a pandemic, for example, hit and things are a little different.”

Additionally, the reserve money is actively invested to generate roughly $500,000 each year. This flexible revenue can be used for any emergency spending that isn’t tied to any fee, said Liang.

“The fees are in good hands,” Liang said when asked about student concerns over the AMS’s handling of their money. “There are a lot of structures in place to make sure these fees are safe and are used for the right purpose.”