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SU VP Op-Fi Preston wants to reduce the library levy.
Ryan May/the Gauntlet

Library levy referendum

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Students' Union Vice-President Operations and Finance Gavin Preston is putting the final touches on a referendum question calling for a decrease in the library assistance levy--currently five dollars per semester for full-time students. He thinks he can increase library funding while reducing the levy.

He proposes to restructure how the levy is being managed. Originally, the levy went into an endowment and the library would only use the interest from the endowment so the endowment would continue to grow until the levy was no longer necessary.

"That's not the way this was done," said Preston.

Instead, the library uses 50 per cent of the $240,000 levy money. Little more than half of the levy goes into the endowment, which will be $830,000 by the end of this year.

Preston also discovered the endowment is only receiving two per cent interest. After discussing the issue with his commissioners, he felt confident they could reinvest the endowment at a substantially higher rate and offer the same funding to the library, while contributing more to the endowment and charging students less.

"Nobody has approached us on this," said Acting Information Resources Director Yvonne Hinks. "Of course it's [students'] money. When it comes to the student-levy project we have worked very closely with the students. It's their decision, once we get the money it's our job to provide the best value for the undergrad programs."

The redirection of funds from the endowment was used for extended service hours in the Info Commons, part-time student employees and more textbooks in stock. Preston doesn't criticize the need or use of funding, but the management of the endowment and lack of long-range planning.

"I think we were aware the [endowment] was not being managed," conceded Ada-Marie Atkins Nechka, Assistant Director Collections and Technical Services.

Atkins Nechka was unaware the endowment was only receiving two per cent interest and only 50 per cent of the levy was going to the endowment.

"All I can emphasize is how much value has been added to the services provided," she explained.

Both sides agree the endowment should not remain at two per cent interest, and feel the students need to decide how to redistribute the annual levy. The library wants to continue to improve service while Preston wants to balance that with students' need to reduce fees.

Preston feels the SU needs to take a closer look at student fees and levies. He thinks there could be room for more cuts in other areas, such as Student Legal Assistance.

"Fees and levies have to decrease because the political environment is right for it now," said Preston. "We are telling the government to stop increasing tuition while we continually increase fees and levies. It's good for the SU to respond to that. This is a lot of this year's direction."

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