SGA budget oversight leads to calculated cuts for senate committees

Line items worth $50,000 were left out of the Fall 2016 semester’s running total during the SGA’s budget meeting on Sunday. The excel sheet being used was reformatted, which caused a cell to be de-linked. The line items not accounted for included the SGA Publicity Committee, money for individual classes, the presidential discretionary fund, and the capital improvement fund.

Objective cuts were made before the meeting according to the SGA’s recently revised budgeting guidelines, and more cuts had to be made so that the semester total would not be in the red. The Budget Committee reviewed by subcommittees in a random order, rather than previous years’ order which had started with ESC and Professional Societies. RSO representatives filtered in and out of BC 122, and were able to follow the progression of the meeting by a time-sheet that was emailed to organization leaders a week prior.

Starting at 1 p.m., the Budget Committee was able to quickly breeze through most of the submitted budgets and by approximately 9 p.m., they had already advanced an hour ahead of schedule. However, soon after the Budget Committee passed non-RSO budgets, Treasurer Jacob Vanderbilt noticed that the formula used in the excel sheet was omitting a very large cost, namely the semesterly line items. Rather than being $13,000 over budget, the SGA was $63,000 over budget. Hunt stated that even if the expenditure for line items was included in the initial calculation, the senate still would have had a large challenge of cutting $63,000 worth of RSO-requested items.

As the Committee began to realize the gravity of the situation, possible solutions were discussed around the room. Some suggested cutting some or all of The Link’s budget, as the yearbook deposit money is not technically due until the spring semester of next academic year. However, a representative of The Link informed them that the money should to be split between the fall and spring semesters so as to not take up such a significant amount of the Student Activity Fee total. Shannon Pierce, senator and SGA Media Board subcommittee head, was against revisiting RSO budgets to make cuts. She pointed out that these organizations spent hours defending their budgets and it would be unfair to make them come back because of the SGA’s mistake. The committee members agreed and began to consider internal solutions.

The budget committee agreed to cut 100% of Campus Life Committee’s budget. The Presidential Discretionary Fund was also removed, as per SGA President Matt Hunt’s suggestion. The Entertainment Committee, which was originally allocated to received 16% as per SGA bylaws, was cut to 12% of the SAF fund. The Budget Committees agreed that students would not be as affected by the $22,000 cut to EC, although this will mean less tickets for the committee’s off-campus events. Finally, the SGA retreat budget was reduced. In the end, the Budget Committee cut down approximately $44,000.

The final budget was $21,000 in the red, which is normal. A rollover of at least $20,000 is expected to be restored by rollback funds, or unspent money allocated to RSOs the previous semester. Hunt explained that the deficit is a result of a continuing trend of student organizations poor budgeting practices, including over-budgeting for items they don’t need expecting that the committee will cut their budget down. The SGA is considering policy changes to encourage RSOs to adopt conservative budgeting practices in effort to prevent this from reoccurring.

For more questions regarding budgeting, please contact SGA Treasurer Jacob Vanderbilt.