SGA requests 21% more funds

SGA requests 21% more funds

The Student Government Association (SGA) approved a proposal to increase its budget 21 percent and allot $20,000 in stipends for next year’s executive board officers in a fast-paced senate meeting Thursday.

The budget proposal was presented during the final 30 minutes of the meeting and was met with controversy because it required the Budget Review Committee (BRC) to break a rule of the Student Activity Fee (SAF) Manual that allows budgeted groups, like the SGA, to increase annual budgets by only 10 percent.

The senate needed to approve the budget Thursday or risk losing the chance of a 10 percent increase, or even getting a budget for next year, said John Guilfoil, SGA vice president for student affairs.

Due to time constraints, debate over the budget was cut short and the vote was called five minutes after the official end of the meeting. Many senators voted and then ran out of the room without hearing the outcome to make it to a class or other engagements. The proposal passed 27-8, with three abstentions.

“The budget is always a last-minute thing,” said SGA President Ashley Adams. She said it could not be presented the previous week because of Campus Invasion, and the week before she didn’t yet have all the numbers.

Adams said the decision to increase the current compensation of $10,800 for the president and executive vice president to $20,000 to include the entire executive board came as a solution to the university’s proposal to take away the free tuition now given to SGA executive board members.

Although the Leadership Scholars Program, which was proposed by university administration to replace the tuition waiver, could possibly offer a $10,000 scholarship to members of the e-board, it is no guarantee, Guilfoil said.

Adams said in the weeks leading up to the presentation of the budget proposal the e-board appealed for additional support from Ed Klotzbier, vice president for student affairs, and President Richard Freeland, who agreed to match whatever figure the BRC agrees to allocate. This could mean another $20,000 in stipends for the officers.

Klotzbier said he had not received anything formal from SGA, but at a meeting with the officers last week President Freeland, “appreciating certain realities around BRC funding rules,” committed to some transitional funding for the first year and possibly additional funding until the SGA can fund the entire stipend amount.

If this budget is approved, the SGA president would receive an $8,000 annual stipend, the vice presidents for student affairs and financial affairs would each receive $7,000 per year, and the remaining three vice presidents would receive $6,000 per year. The entire SGA budget would increase from the current $35,000 to $42,735.

While the proposal passed with a large majority, multiple senators expressed dissatisfaction with increasing stipends for the executive board out of the SAF.

Adriana Campos, vice president for administration and public relations, worked with Adams to create the proposal. She admitted she didn’t like the increase for stipends, but said there was no choice.

Former President Michael Benson and two other senators voted “nay with rights” to the proposal, which allowed them to address the senate after the vote was final about why they disapproved.

During the debate, Benson said the SAF was not SGA’s “private little bank account,” and said it was wrong of the group to ask the BRC to break a rule. After the vote, he said he was disappointed with the senate’s rushed decision and said they did a “disservice” to the student body.

“It is very concerning that a decision of this magnitude was rushed through the senate in 15 minutes without adequate time for debate,” said Benson, who said he is planning to write a piece of legislation that would require the executive board to present the budget to the senate with enough time for review and debate before it is due to the BRC.

Senator Heidi Buchanan, who also voted nay with rights, said while she understood the time crunch SGA was under, she could not support a budget that “clearly violates” the SAF Manual.

Adams said she understood the biggest contentions would be the stipends and the idea of increasing the budget by $7,735. But she said the stipends were the only option for next year’s executive board to function and fulfill the duties of the office, which are defined in the SGA bylaws and include a minimum requirement of 40 office hours a week for the president, 30 hours a week for the executive vice president and 20 for each of the remaining members of the executive board.

“It really sucks to have to put in those stipends when we can see other things that money could be used on,” Adams said.

To limit the total increase and be more “fiscally conservative” the budget proposal decreased funding in the entertainment and maintenance pools and removed all funding for Campus Invasion, which can be allocated by the BRC with a program request later in the year, Campos said.

The proposal also included funding of $600 in anticipation of SGA’s transition to direct elections, which was approved at the joint senate meeting Monday.

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