SGA Treasurer and Student Life staff finally explain why all SGA funded organizations budgets were cut
By Marian Baker, Staff Writer
Since early Sept. when the 2017-2018 SGA student organizations’ budgets were revealed, rumors have been flying around campus concerning the exact reason for the 20% cut to each student organization’s budget. One rumor named last year’s purchase of the trolley as the precipitating factor for the cuts; another hypothesis was that SGA forgot to pay an unnamed official’s salary. However, one commonality among most of these rumors was the agreement that SGA was anywhere between $70,000 and $100,000 in debt.
Now, however, SGA is ready to clear up all the rumors and set the record straight. First, and perhaps most importantly, “SGA is not in debt,” explained SGA treasurer Tucker Erdemann. “Once the fall enrollment number was finalized, it was determined that the actual budgeted expenses for 2017-18 were more than what had been forecasted last spring.”
Each spring, the SGA treasurer prepares a master budget for the upcoming academic year. At the time the treasurer prepares this master budget, the exact amount of money that will be available to SGA in the next year is unknown, as the amount of money SGA receives each semester is entirely dependent on the total enrollment for that semester. Each undergraduate day student pays the $190 SGA fee, but the number of students fluctuates. For instance, over the past five semesters the total amount of money available to SGA has ranged from $474,620 to $494,190 simply due to differing levels of student enrollment.
Forced to make an educated guess
Because SGA cannot predict the total money they will have with 100% accuracy, the treasurer must make a projection. After this projection is made and before any funds are distributed, $33,000 per semester is allocated to the office of Student Involvement and Inclusion (SII) to help support the staff operations that oversee and support student organizations and Greek life. After this allocation, the remaining funds are distributed among several organizations and councils, including SGA-sponsored organizations, FUSAB, club sports, intramural sports, Student Diversity Council, the Religious Council, and the Residence Life Council.
Finally, allocations to specific SGA student organizations are decided in a formal process wherein club treasurers submit budget requests to the SGA treasurer. These budget requests are voted on by either the SGA financial committee or the entire council. SGA will take the requested amount of money and compare it to the expense history, or the amount of money the club has actually used in that year, in order to produce a budget for each organization.
Yet, the budget projection last spring fell short in several ways. First, the budget assumed that there would be unspent funds carried forward into the current academic year from last year, 2016-2017. However, the current SGA council discovered that there was actually a $7,000 overage from the previous year, as well as a further $8,200 expense for the use of SyncDIN. Nor did the previous council account for the yearly allocation of $66,000 to SII, as they were not aware that this allocation needed to be made. As a result of this $81,200 budget discrepancy – not debt – SGA decided to cut 36% of its own operating expenses as well as 20% from each student organization’s budget.
“SGA is not in debt.” -SGA treasurer Tucker Erdemann.
But why was the previous council unaware that they needed to allocate $66,000 to SII? The answer goes back further than last year’s council, as the resolution to raise the SGA fee $10 precisely for this allocation was passed in 2011 by the 41st Council of SGA. Yet, somewhere along the line, but well before last year, the details of this resolution were lost between Council transitions. “There was no foul play; this was a transition issue,” stated Dr. Jason Cassidy, Associate Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students.
However, this year’s SGA Council rediscovered the resolution and had to take action.
Moving foward after assumptive budget projections
In order to prevent similar things from happening in the future, SGA is now taking steps to ensure that such an oversight will not happen again. SGA now has one location where all budget reports and protocols can easily be shared in Council transitions, and the treasurer will also be reviewing monthly budget reports from the University. Dr. Jason Cassidy and Ms. Jessica Berkey, the Director of Student Involvement and Inclusion, will also offer more support and guidance to the SGA treasurer.
While it has taken SGA some time to fully understand the extent of the situation and execute corrective action, SGA is publicly addressed the financial adjustments. A student forum took place on Monday, Oct. 30th.