By Emily Senger
The Students’ Union’s landlord is looking to raise the rent.
Campus Infrastructure wants to increase the occupancy fees in MacEwan Students’ Centre to combat rising utilities costs. Since the SU acts as manager of MSC, they would be responsible for meeting the costs of this proposed increase.
“We’ve received a decrease in services but they’re looking at maybe even doubling [occupancy] fees,” said SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Gavin Preston. “This could break the SU.”
Currently, the SU collects rent from each retail tenant. These rental fees are then passed on to the university as part of a set occupancy cost.
If occupancy fees were increased, Preston explained the SU would be forced to take measures that would negatively affect the student body. Some possible options for generating the extra funds would include charging clubs a fee for their office space (which is currently provided free of charge), increasing merchant fees and increasing food and beverage costs at the Den.
“It will get passed on to students,” said Preston.
Director of Campus Infrastructure Stephen Dantzer stressed that as campus utility costs have tripled since 1998, it is inevitable that operating costs to retailers on campus will also rise.
“Where we saw the significant increase in utilities was after deregulation of utilities in 2001, ” said Dantzer. “Utilities are more than half of the cost of occupancy costs. We’re just trying to recover actual costs, we’re not trying to generate extra revenue.”
In what he calls “the last fight of my term,” Preston vows to do his best to fight the proposed increase by clarifying the exact terms of the increase and then meeting with university administration within the next few weeks.
“We’ve taken on management of [MSC] and [Campus Infrastructure is] looking at it like a lease,” said Preston. “We’re not a business, we don’t make money, we’re not for profit.”
Dantzer stressed current occupancy costs in MSC “only relate to space where there is retail or revenue generating activity.” This excludes club space and SU office space.
The SU has already budgeted roughly $200,000 this year for occupancy fees in MSC to cover services such as utilities, caretaking, insurance, grounds and security.