Student Senate explains budget process

Chris Smith, Atiba Khan and Ryan Stevens are members of the Student Senate Finance Committee. Photo Credit / Victoria Krukenkamp
Chris Smith, Atiba Khan and Ryan Stevens are members of the Student Senate Finance Committee.  Photo Credit / Victoria Krukenkamp
Chris Smith, Atiba Khan and Ryan Stevens are members of the Student Senate Finance Committee.
Photo Credit / Victoria Krukenkamp

By Victoria Krukenkamp

Managing Editor

The Student Senate is poised to vote on the proposed budget allocations for the 2014-15 academic year.

The $1,660,000 budget will fund 87 student club and activity organizations.

Originally planned for last week, the Senate elected to suspend the vote so that senators would have more time to evaluate their decision.

The motion to table the vote was brought forward by Senator Sara O’Connell following the realization that the printed copy of the budget presented to the Senate in chambers was not the final copy.

Senators did have access to the correct copy of the budget in their email beginning Monday before the vote.

“By an affirmative vote, the Senate chose to suspend the vote on the 2014-2015 budget until next meeting. This is 1.6 million dollars that the senate is considering; therefore, I respect the Senate’s decision to hold off the vote to gather more information and make a well-informed decision,” said Student Senate President Justin Amann.

Chair of the Finance Committee for the Student Senate Atiba Khan explained that the budget that will be voted on today reflects no changes from the budget that was presented last week, despite concerns raised at last week’s senate meeting by students.

“We didn’t get any concrete evidence that it needed to be changed,” said Khan.

Last week, Jen Moser addressed the Senate on behalf of the Out and About organization that is facing a nearly 20% cut in their budget — despite requesting more than twice what is proposed.

“If we don’t have enough money for trips, then all the prices the students will pay will basically be the same prices they would pay on their own,” Moser said.

Moser explained that one of the planned trips will cost nearly half of the budget.

Out and About is not alone — 43 of the 87 clubs are facing a decrease in their budget.

The CAB Concert budget was another of concern to representatives of the club at last week’s meeting.

Concert Chair Dan Pagan explained to the Senate that the proposed cuts to their budget would prevent them from bringing in a popular act.

“It’s a tricky budget to do,” said Khan, who explained that the concert was a revenue stream for CAB, and that they would be able to access the funds they needed to put on the show in speculation of the profit that the concert makes.

“We’re trying to give them an advance so we can give funds to other organizations,” Khan said.

Finance Committee Member Chris Smith emphasized that the budget reflected limited funds.

“If you give to one place, you have to take from another,” said Smith.

Decisions about individual club budgets were the responsibility of the finance committee, which determined a universal criterion for the process based on funding policies at the beginning of this semester.

The criterion for clubs budgets were based on a consideration of the clubs previous finances and documentation provided for their future needs. Khan explained that the criterion were applied across the board.

“We can’t be biased. We have to make sure we’re consistent,” said Khan.

The Finance Committee faced some challenges this year as they implemented a new budget process that was agreed upon last spring; however, Finance Committee Member Ryan Stevens felt the changes helped to make the process more transparent and to educate the student organizations.

“The new process helped clubs learn about their funds,” said Stevens.

Smith agreed that the process was informational.

“It was a good way to see what the students were trying to accomplish — to see their mission,” said Smith.

While in the past club budgets were submitted to the Senate committee and then adjusted based on numbers, this year’s process involved individual meetings between the finance committee and club leadership.

Stevens explained that this change allowed for the budget decisions to be more fluid.

“This year we raised concerns with the clubs as we went through the process,” Stevens said.

Khan also explained that the new process allowed her team to consider the changes that come from new leadership in a club, and how those changes can affect the budget.

The Student Senate budget process begins the first week of the spring semester when the committee sits down with Executive Director Student Activity Association Patricia Baylor and Director of University Center & Student Activities John Robinson to discuss the budget policies.

For the clubs, the process begins with a series of budget workshops that club leaders are encouraged to attend.

Budget proposals are due mid-February.

Stevens explained that after this initial submission, the finance committee begins evaluating the budgets against policies immediately.

“We check policies and make sure what the clubs are requesting fall within,” Stevens said.

Under the new process, club leaders are then invited to a meeting with the finance committee that is intended to discuss the club’s budget.

Once the budget is approved by vote of the senate, it then travels to the Student Activity Association Board of Directors for approval.

Finally, it is sent to the President’s office.

Khan explained that the whole process required more than 100 hours of commitment from her team over a six-week period.

“I’d like to applaud the tremendous efforts of Atiba and the whole Finance Committee,” Amann said.

The proposed budget vote will take place at 2 PM today during the Senate meeting in the Student Senate Chambers, second floor, University Center.

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