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Lower student legal levy?

Referendum question debated

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In light of two new Student Legal Assistance clinics in Banff and Red Deer, the Students' Union is looking to reduce the levy SLA receives from students.

At Students' Legislative Council on Tue., Dec. 2, the SU began discussing a referendum question to decrease the SLA levy. The question is about whether funding needs to be as high as it is was raised to in April, when the SLA moved to open a clinic in Red Deer.

SLA is being accused of not reporting to the SU and using student levy money to build clinics in Banff and Red Deer.

"I would like clarify that we've never ignored a request that has come from this council," said SLA President Chris Delkey. "We have always felt that we have approached this council in the spirit of co-operation."

SLA currently receives most of its funding from the Alberta Legal Foundation, with the rest of its budget from the SU levy. SLA claims it represents students in proportion to the amount of funding they receive from the levy, while using its Red Deer and Banff clinics to service a broader group of people.

"The student files are about 25 per cent of our case load, and the levy covers 25 per cent of the budget," said Delkey. "The money that comes from this levy has always been used for students."

SLA also said the funding for its two clinics came from sources outside the SU. Delkey noted the funding for the Banff clinic came from their ALF funding, while the Red Deer clinic came from a casino fundraiser.

The referendum question would decrease the amount of money paid to SLA. Delkey feels this budget cut will not eliminate SLA, but it will definitely affect it.

"It won't break us," Delkey said. "But if it comes to the point where $30,000 to $40,000 is taken, we're clearly going to be in the red."

SLA doesn't oppose the referendum, but they do want input on matters such as what question is posed to the voters.

"I hope the council would consult with us and work with us," Delkey said. "We certainly have tried to cooperate with this council, and we would ask the same in return."

SLA member Stephen Torscher, who brought up the issue in April when he was an SU Operations and Finance Commissioner and the SU representative on the SLA Board of Directors, feels the funding should not be decreased.

"Before, I was concerned that the money from the SU was being used to build clinics that weren't helping University of Calgary students," said Torscher. "I have seen the seen some of the rationale and my opinion is changed. As a law student, there's no better experience you can get than volunteering for SLA."

Not all SLC members agree with the levy decrease idea.

"It is a great work or internship opportunity," said SU Vice-President Academic Demetrios Nicolaides. "I think the academic aspects must be looked at."

Both groups are optimistic things will go well when it comes to ratifying the referendum questions in January.

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