SGA passes annual budget

On Tuesday, April 15, the Undergraduate House of Representatives (UHR) and the Graduate Student Senate (GSS) voted on approving the 2008-2009 Fiscal Year Student Activity Fee (SAF) Budget. The total amount of funds allocated in next year’s budget comes out to $4,269,366. This number is up more than $350,000 from last year’s budget, which allocated $3.9 million for the 2007-2008 fiscal year. The SAF Budget is the last major piece of legislation that the Student Government Association (SGA) considers in the Spring.

The SAF Budget is the principal pool of money that the SGA uses to fund many of Tech’s organizations that benefit the student body. The budget receives most of its funding from the Student Activity Fees that are paid every year. Money from previous years that did not end up being spent is also rolled over into the budget of the following year.

The funds laid out in the SAF Budget consist of operational costs requested by the Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 organizations. Tier 1 organizations include the Student Center and the Campus Recreation Center. Tier 2 organizations include bodies like the SGA, Student Publications and intramural sports. The majority of all the other student organizations fall into the Tier 3 classification.

The reason for the nearly 10% increase in next year’s budget stems from several sources. Firstly, the state of Georgia increased the annual percentage raise of salaries paid for by the state. Normally a fixed 2% raise, the state changed the rate to a 2.5% increase.

Another reason for the budget increase comes from SGA deciding to fund several new staff positions for the next year. One of those positions was the addition of the Student Involvement Coordinator, who receives a salary of $38,000.

Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech (ORGT) is adding a new challenge course and is increasing their staffing accordingly. These employees will be covered in the budget. Several competitive organizations are also hiring coaches whose salaries are included in the budget.

Many organizations are receiving funding for the first time and are being included in the budget. The newly established undergraduate research journal, The Tower, has its printing costs and personal costs included as part of the budget. GT-IDEA, the Women’s Rugby Club and Solar Jackets are all new organizations that had their budget requests included for the next year.

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) handles the creation of the SAF Budget every year. This work consists of meeting with the different organizations during the year to tally up their funding requests for the following year. The JFC must ensure both that the funding in the budget is reasonably distributed between the many organizations, and that it comes in under the projected amount of money available for the following year.

According to Varun Prasad, chair of the JFC, $4.32 million is expected from SAF next year. However he said that historically, the expected amount has underestimated the actual amount of money received. Prasad also added that he believes that there will be around $450,000 left over after adding up the money rolled over from this year’s budget and the difference between the actual and requested budget amounts for next year.

The SGA reviewed the initial version of the final budget in their April 1 meeting. Prasad introduced the bill before the undergraduate representatives and graduate senators, outlining some of the key points in the document. During the next two meetings, both the UHR and GSS deliberated on the various line items in the budget. Amendments to the budget by the UHR and GSS mostly addressed different line items, although they both agreed on a handful of decisions, such as keeping the spending on printing by student publications at their present amount.

Once the UHR and GSS had completed their amendments, the budget was sent to conference committee last Sunday. Representatives from the UHR, GSS and JFC spent about an hour rewriting the budget into a version that would be agreed upon by both legislative bodies. The final version of the budget was voted on during the Tuesday meetings and was approved by both bodies.