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SUNY Fredonia FSA Posts Net Loss

SUNY Fredonia’s University Commons is pictured this week. The school’s Faculty Student Association reported a more than $500,000 loss for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Photo by M.J. Stafford

SUNY Fredonia’s Faculty Student Association (FSA) lost more than $500,000 in 2022-23, after recording a more than $2.3 million profit in 2021-22.

FSA’s federal income tax Form 990 for June 1, 2021, through May 31, 2022, shows revenue of $2,347,410. Its Form 990 for the 2022-23 June-to-May calculation shows a loss of $528,208.

The organization operates campus food and laundry services, and the university bookstore. It is a separate entity of the university. It also runs the College Lodge, and sold some nearby acreage to the Western New York Land Conservancy in 2022.

FSA documents were looked at by the OBSERVER in light of continuing enrollment decreases. Student population was 3,935 in 2020-21 and has dropped to 2,994 during this spring semester — a 24% decline.

As an organization exempt from income tax, FSA must file a Form 990 every tax season. It gets its public charity, non-taxable status as “a supporting organization operated, supervised or controlled by its supported organization(s), typically by giving the supported organization(sj the power to regularly appoint or elect a majority of the directors or trustees of the supporting organization,” according to the form.

FSA Executive Director Darin Schulz said, “In order to be transparent with students so they know the total cost of attending Fredonia, FSA must estimate food commodity costs seven months in advance of each academic year, while also trying to anticipate the university’s enrollment. These estimates include setting prices and hours of operations, along with planning purchases for an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall, retail food court, multiple cafes, a convenience store, book store, vending operations, a prep kitchen and bakery, and Starbucks. Over the years, FSA has experienced both surpluses and losses given all of the significant externalities that we do not have control over.”

FSA lost money on the bookstore from 2021-23. In 2021-22, it cost $4,045,727 in operating expenses but only took in $3,917,584, for a net loss of $128,143. The 2022-23 figures were $3,670,179 in expenses and $3,637,421 in revenues, a smaller loss of $32,758.

“Over the last 15 years, the use of traditional textbooks has decreased significantly while the availability of third-party online resellers have increased exponentially,” Schulz said. “A campus bookstore allows students to use financial aid to purchase course materials, so the bookstore remains a vital asset for the university.”

The biggest cause of FSA’s move from black to red looks to be $2,927,269 less in grants and contributions in 2022-23 — the figure is down to zero, in fact.

Schulz noted much of the 2021-22 grant total came from COVID-19-related funding, and helped make up financial losses from the pandemic.

“In March of 2020, when COVID-19 brought everything to a stop, over 90% of students went home and FSA refunded their meal plans. The lingering effects of the pandemic also led to a deficit for FSA in 2020-21,” he said. “FSA applied for and received a $2.3 million grant from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). While the distribution of those funds created a large surplus in our (financial) books in 2021-22, those funds actually offset the losses FSA experienced in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years due to COVID.”

The food services are FSA’s key moneymaker. It made $7,837,193 off them in 2022-23, with $6,590,967 in expenses, a profit of $1,246,226.

According to the Form 990, FSA had 476 employees in a 2021 calculation. Salaries cost $6,572,416 in 2022-23, up from $6,231,410 in 2021-22. Schulz made $143,254 in 2022-23, plus $42,485 in benefits.

Schulz stated, “FSA has made significant capital improvements to campus facilities that we operate in, including the bookstore in University Commons that opened in 2006, so annual depreciation expense does make up a sizable portion of the loss. Otherwise, we have effectively balanced our current operational revenues and expenses.”

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