The Student Congress approved a spring budget topping $175,000 without any amendments Wednesday.
The budget will distribute $175,717 to student organizations, campus entertainment, cabinet expenses, class allocations and campus initiatives.
The Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization received the most funding at $7,000. FilmFest received the second largest funding at $4,500. The Ad/PR Association and the International Justice Mission received no spring funding since their fall funding carried over to fulfill their needs for the spring. Although CEO received the largest dollar amount, they only received 17 percent of their requested $39,750.
Most of the student groups received half or more than half of the amount they requested. Groups that didn’t use the full amount of their fall funding received the least amount because fall funding rolls over.
“We would love to fund everything for everybody, but that’s impossible,” said Students’ Association executive treasurer Morgan Jennings.
SA chief financial officer Austin Cotton and Jennings prepared the spring budget during the first three weeks of the semester and shared it with Congress members the night before the meeting. Congress members were responsible for debating and defending the needs of student groups. Although representatives from student groups seeking funding were present, they could only answer questions, not debate.
SA executive president Beau Carter said this is the second time this policy has been enforced in a budget meeting.
“It’s a lot better for our student representatives to work with our student groups,” said Carter, senior political science major from Farmers Branch. “It’s a medium for empowering our Congress to take the initiative.”
Rachel Lopez De Castilla, multicultural representative and senior psychology major from San Antonio, said the old system allowed student groups to debate but was less fair.
“Last year’s budget meeting for the spring of 2015 there was a lot of debate between representatives and it got really dicey, which is why they implemented the new rules,” Lopez De Castilla said. “I think that made the process go a lot more quickly.”
SA also allocated more than $66,000 to the campus entertainment fund – the max allowed. According to the SA Constitution, “no more than 38% of the Students Association Budget shall be transferred to the Entertainment Campus Fund.” This fund is managed by Tom Craig, director of student activities, Alyssa Ellison, student life communications and activities coordinator and a student committee made up of the Congress cabinet and members of the student life office.
Abbey Moses, SA executive vice president and junior political science major from Abilene, said any student can contact the SA office and interview to be members of this committee. They are working on a large scale project that Moses said will hopefully take place in mid-April.
The constitution also requires no more than 30 percent of the budget to be allocated to student organizations. Jennings and Cotton met with representatives of student organizations during the first three weeks of this semester to discuss their requests. The groups itemized and prioritized their requests, then Jennings and Cotton worked on the final budget. They used data from the fall semester to see if student groups used the full percentage of their fall funding.
“We have a list of standards that we try to follow to be as fair as possible,” said Jennings, junior accounting major from Abilene.
If a student group requests funding for convention fees, travel and lodging, SA standards focus on funds for the registration fees first, even if the group said travel and lodging was its top priority.
“Our priorities are things that involve everyone on campus, things that involve the student body,” said Cotton, senior finance and accounting major from Keller.
A new SA website, https://acustudents.org, allows students to view the full budget document. It also lists executive officers, Congress members and outlines past and upcoming projects.
One difference between this semester’s budget and the fall budget is the addition of cabinet wages. In the fall, the SA cabinet wages were discounted from the budget because they were treated as a scholarship. However, the SA Constitution dictates that the cabinet wages come from the SA fund, so that was allocated at $22,500.
The campus initiative fund, formerly the athletics initiative that provided for football tailgates, will now provide for projects such as Bike Friendly University, a long term project, and an upcoming “hammock hotels” project.
Another change to this year’s policies includes stronger enforcement of p-card deadlines. P-cards are purchasing credit/debit cards that student groups can borrow from the executive officers to make purchases. Student groups are required to turn in these cards to the SA office with the receipt for their purchases. Student groups will receive a warning the first time they turn p-cards in late, and if they turn them in late a second time, they will lose the lesser of $25 or 10 percent from their budgeted amount.