By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
The Students’ Association executive officers presented a $95,000 budget to the SA Congress last weekend, the largest normal budget in SA history.
The budget, which tops last fall’s $93,000 mark, is filled with reforms designed to curb congressional spending that put SA close to a zero balance at the end of last semester.
“If they hadn’t set aside $10,000 for the concert, it would have been bad,” said Jonathan Wilkerson, executive treasurer, referring to money set aside to try to attract Jars of Clay last semester. After the concert fell through, the money was used to cushion the blows of several hits a monstrous $107,000 budget took last spring.
The new budget features a host of reforms that include itemized budgets, signed contracts and three request funds.
“There’s been no accountability,” Wilkerson said. “There’s no checks and balances down here. The students’ money needs to be accounted for.”
In February, an enrollment decline chopped $6,800 out of a budget that had topped $100,000 after a gigantic rollover from the previous semester.
In May, the Spring Break Campaigns Committee announced that it was about $6,500 over budget because of unpaid deposits, which was still better than the year before. SA agreed to absorb the costs.
Also at the end of the semester, Habitat for Humanity said it raised only $2,500 of the $10,000 it had spent to build a house last semester. SA also absorbed those costs.
Aside from those concerns, the $20,000 student request fund nearly ran dry with morethan a month left in the semester thanks in large part to liberal grants Congress made early in the semester. It never ran out only because the junior class transferred cash from its budget into the fund.
Those problems led Wilkerson to add the following measures to this semester’s budget:
* All budgets must now be itemized, with classes and committees denoting line-by-line how they will use the requested money. Then they must sign a contract agreeing to spend what they proposed and save their receipts.
This was done, Wilkerson said, to prevent a class or committee from spending all its allotted money on one large event when it had promised to pay for several others.
* The student request fund now has $26,000, with $4,000 more for an additional fund used expressly for advocacy. A third fund to be used only for service-related items has $3,000. Groups seeking money from the request fund now have a $1,500 limit before the request must be voted on, up from $1,000 last year.
* The operating pool, which is used by the executive officers for SA-related expenses, has been split into different categories with the bulk being renamed “administrative expenses.” In all, what used to be the operating pool has about $10,000 less budgeted.
Members of Congress will have the opportunity to ask questions about the budget in Wednesday’s SA meeting, but executive president Jeremy Smith said the budget would not be put on the agenda; members will have to bring it up at the meeting.
If no one brings up the budget, it will be the first time in at least a year that Congress will operate under a budget it has not approved.
Also announced at the retreat was Smith’s plan to shift SA toward advocacy.
All 49 voting members are now members of the Constituent Relations Committee, chaired by Shep Strong, junior class senator, and Stephen Thomason.
After two weeks, all 49 members will then become members of the Advocacy Council. After that, they will begin working on the suggestions they received.