Fiscal restraint, understanding needed during budget season

Every semester you’re charged a Student Activity Fee. Your SGA is charged with being a steward of that fee with the purpose of filling the gap in areas of student life that the Institute cannot fill. The story all told, SAF revenues amount to nearly $4.8 million dollars ($4,753,968 to be exact). If you weren’t aware of this fee or that it added up to a few million dollars, I’ll let that sink in for a moment. If you were aware of these numbers, we’ll keep moving.
While a great deal of money is collected each year in SAF revenue, the number of requests by student organizations consistently outpaces the money that we oversee.  Hence we reach the inherent problem that has surrounded the SAF since its inception. There is a great disparity between collected revenues and yearly requests. Historically, both revenue and requests trend upward at a fairly steady rate, but what is driving this trend? The poor state of the economy? Increased enrollment? Sheer necessity for more funds? It is likely a combination of all of these factors driving the need for greater SAF revenue.
The question then seems to be: who is making these requests? Requiring just under one third of its total operating budget from SAF funds, the CRC accounts for nearly 40 percent of the total budget requests. While the Student Center requests significantly less ($1.25 million), it still comes to some 25 percent of overall requests. Combined, these two campus staples garner nearly two thirds of collected SAF revenue. With such widespread student use, many might be asking themselves: well why shouldn’t they? Any one of the 109 student organizations requesting budgets can probably give a few reasons why.
Given the poor state of the economy, many of these organizations depend on SAF funding to maintain normal operations. For some this means travel to a tournament, to others it means hosting a yearly event. Regardless of the occasion, organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain outside funding, and it seems a Skiles walkway bake sale just doesn’t go as far as it used to. Unfortunately, a bad economy doesn’t increase the amount of SAF revenue. Equally unfortunate is that UHR and GSS still expect organizations requesting funds to use SGA as a last resort. This expectation may seem an impossibility to some, but as long as the voting bodies continue to see groups that do raise their own funds and pay higher dues, the expectation will remain. Still, a problem remains.
While the number of student organizations that submit budgets each year has remained fairly consistent, the number of newly chartered organizations on campus, and the amount of each budget request continues to climb. Thus, the solution to the current fiscal issue is both a commitment to fiscal responsibility on behalf of SGA and a great deal of understanding from the students.
As Chairman of the JFC, I am responsible for ensuring that each submitted budget is checked, combed and considered with the utmost scrutiny. The idea is not to deter organizations from requesting funds, it is simply a process by which we ensure that the student’s money is being allocated properly and that fiscal responsibility is being practiced. In furtherance of this idea, UHR and GSS passed a bill earlier last Fall that effectively tightened the requirements on budgets. These new restrictions now require each organization requesting a budget to attend a budget information session, update contact information regularly, and attend a budget hearing. Although these requirements have been enforced in the past to some extent, failure to complete them is now accompanied with the possible budget denial or reduction.
Although I do believe SGA has taken positive steps towards fiscal responsibility with these policy changes as well as some other initiatives, I still foresee an increase in the SAF coming down the pike in the coming years. That is why I believe that the relationship between the student body and SGA will only succeed if the students are understanding of that fact.


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