You might have noticed that yesterday, Launch posted this quite successful image on their Facebook page, replete with a stock image of a red downward arrow:

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Perhaps a bit alarmed at the success of the graphic, STAR quickly followed suit with a counterclaim. They weren’t able to find any stock images of green arrows shooting upwards though.

14290035_531952473677036_6679851381064046350_oThe sources cited in the first graphic are a little hard to follow. It’s true there are Guild Budget Documents, namely an annual report released every October, and a Treasurer’s Budget Report (ideally) released every December. Both are publicly available – however the latter, more detailed document is a bit less consistent, and in fact prior to 2012 none are readily available, presumably having been eaten by a dinosaur.

If we examine what we do have, however, we find a different story.

It’s no secret that the Guild Budget has been on a general downward trend since 2015, and this was all the more alarming for a guild that had such a tiny budget to begin with. Our Guild is still heavily reliant on the SSAF fee, and until it recently became clear that the amount would increase, the Guild only received a paltry 30% average. The 2014 Guild Budget Report cited an increase in SSAF income, but also a potential decrease in future years due to the reduced cohort. The Guild has been cutting costs wherever possible since.

Many a club president and department head got a bit of a nasty shock when they saw the 2016 budget, as it looked as if many budget lines had been cut completely. However, this was actually due to the Guild stopping the practice of cross charging: guild departments charging other parts of the guild for their services. In actual fact, while there were small cuts in many areas, the cuts in 2016 looked much worse than they actually were, simply because of this attempt to stop an inefficient practice.

This was particularly true in the case of club funding.

On first glance, between 2015- 2016 the Societies Council does appear to go from $104,560 to $100,350. However this is largely due to a $5,000 tenancy maintenance budget being moved to Corporate Services, meaning the actual money available to clubs increased by $790 on this line. While this doesn’t seem like much, there were also large increases to club funding in the latter half of 2016. These include external grants, which increased by $5500 in semester 2 – something that wouldn’t be included in the budget documents for the start of the year.

It’s unclear where the figure of over $7000 slashed comes from, but it seems likely that it’s a combination of actual cuts to the tune of $1000, plus the reductions to Ed Council and Societies Council, which are negligible when you consider the impact of eliminating cross-charging. Presumably these figures were taken from documents from the start of the year, which also no longer reflect small Consumer Price Index increases.

STAR’s counter-claim that club funding went up by $6,870 came from the increase in potential external grants, plus a few small increases to Public Affairs Council and Ed Council grants . It could be argued that it’s misleading to include external grant increases, but it’s inarguable that the actual money available to clubs increased over 2016.

STAR has been operating the Guild for a number of years, so a look at their club budgets isn’t complete without looking back further. While examining the 2013 Treasurer’s Report, and trying not to tear up at the $20,000 cut from Pelican, I see that the combined funds going to clubs was at $95,800, meaning that clubs were given a substantial increase the following year. 2012’s budget reports are lost to the mists of time, but what we can see is that for at least the last three years, STAR has gradually increased club funding, even when the Guild was making damaging cuts in other areas due to decreased SSAF income.

If you’re looking for a clear take-away here (TL;DR if you will), it’s that Launch have made quite groundless claims over decreases to club funding.

But another important point to raise based on these documents: anyone wanting to make a valid criticism of the Guild’s finances need only look at the catering budget, the single most important source of income apart from the SSAF. To see successive Treasurers talk about external competition as if it’s a good thing is bizarre to say the least. While it’s true that competition could somehow pressure catering to increase in quality, this would need to be backed up by funding allocated towards ingredients and staff. Perhaps the reason Launch aren’t making more valid criticisms is because their catering policy is nearly identical.

Furthermore, none of the parties have really made any budget policies that reflect the yuge increases to Guild income that are likely to occur once we get 50% SSAF. At this rate we are going to BE ROLLIN’ IN IT, and none of the parties will have established a clear mandate on how to spend it.

Words by Hayden Dalziel

In the spirit of transparency we highly recommend looking over the treasurer’s reports yourselves.

2016 projected budget is here.

2015 projected budget is here.

2014 projected budget is here.

Send goss, corrections, and general rowdiness to pelican@guild.uwa.edu.au