2017–2018 Elections budget ran a $23 000 deficit, UVSS reports

Cause of the overspending still unclear, Director of Finance and Operations says

File graphic by Niusha Derakhshan

In an executive report at the latest UVSS board meeting on Monday, June 18, Director of Finance and Operations Curtis Whittla announced that this year’s Elections Office ran $23 000 over their allocated budget.

The students’ society originally allocated $26 237 for their 2017–2018 Elections budget, which covers referendums and UVSS elections. This allotment is relatively consistent with the past six years of UVSS budgets, but while the past four years haven’t seen any deficit at all, this year bucked the trend in dramatic fashion.  

Whittla prefaced the summary by stating that the UVSS as a whole was still under budget as of March 31, but he said that since the Elections Office did not internally track their expenses throughout the year, the board has yet to narrow down how the overspending actually took place.

At this point I think the elections account budget may have not adequately factored in a fall referendum and the absence of an accounting manager for the first few months of 2018 created a gap in financial oversight,” Whittla wrote in an email to the Martlet, writing that the discrepancy appeared as income statements came into the office over the past month.

We should hopefully have all our actuals for the past year by the end of the week (of June 18), but it’ll be a couple more weeks after that before Finance and Operations Committee and Electoral Committee can meet to review income statements and the general ledger in depth,” he continued. “These documents will give us a more comprehensive picture of what happened.”

Curtis Whittla, Director of Finance and Operations for the UVSS, at a Senate candidates debate. Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor

Currently, the Elections office operates autonomously from the Board of Directors, and policy does not clearly mandate that the Elections office must provide an expense report after an election. However, Whittla did say that the UVSS would be pursuing policy changes to increase financial accountability for the Elections Office.

According to Whittla, the Elections sub-committee will spend the year discussing policies regarding board approval on additional expenditures, financial reporting to the board, and ensuring UVSS Elections staff have financial management experience.

This is not the first time that concerns have been raised regarding the Elections Office budget. In a report from March 2017, previous UVSS Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Lori Roter discussed the 2017 budget and the significant expenditures that elections can incur. (That year, the 2017 spring election saw the UVSS go only $90.62 over budget .)

“Many factors external to the Elections Office can impact the budget,” Roter’s 2017 Electoral Report reads.

“These factors include: the number of referenda asked, the number of candidates running; the conduct of the candidates in terms of time and effort needed to resolve complaints; appeals from any complaints and decisions; and the ease of hiring and training both pollsitters and electoral officers.

“Given the operational structure and make-up of the Elections Office,” Roter wrote, “keeping wages on track with budget is seldom simple or straightforward.”

Karen Potts, Roter’s successor as CEO who oversaw the UVSS elections and the fall and spring referendums, additionally expressed concern in a report summarizing the 2017 Fall Referendum.

“During this referendum, the UVSS Elections Office internally faced significant time constraints, budget limitations, staffing deficiencies, and technology inadequacies,” Potts wrote in the 2017 Fall Referendum Electoral Report.  

For now, Whittla and the financial team at the UVSS will pore over income statements in an attempt to identify where the deficit came from. The electoral office operates independently to the board and is given autonomy to make required expenses as necessary,” he said. “Beyond this, it’s too early to know what happened and it’s something we’ll be looking into soon.”

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