Student Group Appropriations Budget Crosses Deficit Line, Merges to Survive Remaining Year
The Student Association’s appropriations budget plunged into the red last senate meeting, prompting officials to rely on money outside of the spending line to meet special funding requests for the remaining semester.
Expecting funds to run dry, the senate merged appropriations with a line for student group activities at Camp Dippikill at the Mar. 8 meeting. Combined, the line is now about $3,100 according to an email from the comptroller’s office.
A wave of special funding requests was approved throughout the meeting, bringing the original line now some $5,400 over budget.
Budget setbacks alarmed Austin Ostro, senate vice chair and recently resigned board of finance chair. Ostro cautioned the senate to avoid drying up the line before semester’s end.
“If you don’t start making some cuts, we’re going to have to start saying ‘no’ to a lot of student groups in the next couple of weeks,” said Ostro.
The senate initially blocked the largest appropriations bill of the semester: $13,400 for the African Student Association’s Africa Night. But backlash over the decision lead to a re-vote which overturned the original call.
“It was just hard to see everybody else’s requests go through and ours get shut down,” said ASA Vice President Peace Ibe. “I feel like no thought was put into it the first time around.”
Despite initially failing to pass, few senators spoke out against the request. Brian Polanco was the only senator to openly express opposition during the second debate period. Running short on cash, Polanco argued that remaining dollars should accommodate smaller requests for more student groups.
Mark Anthony Quinn, a member of the appropriations committee, urged the senate to meet ASA’s request despite the deficit cost. Fiscal mistakes, he said, should not come at the expense of student groups.
Several factors are believed to have put the appropriations committee in tight corners: special funds were mistakenly moved out of a separate line, blurring budget numbers; the Dippikill line was used less than expected, withholding money some consider could’ve padded appropriations instead; the committee spent too much, a belief held by SA Vice President Colin Manchester.
“You don’t have to spend everything you have and be left out in the cold like we are now,” said Manchester.
Kelvin Collazzo, newly minted appropriations chair, denied that the committee overspent.
Weeks earlier, the appropriations committee rejected two ASA special funding requests, eventually welcoming in a 43 percent cut.
“[The senate] doesn’t see the actual raw appropriations that we get, so it’s just kind of hard,” said Collazzo.
Next fall, the appropriations committee could have more to spend or an empty budget. Should the student activity fee become voluntary, the appropriations line will be slashed. SA recognized student groups will be handed one cent each (in total: less than $2) in the contingency plan.
However, if the fee remains mandatory, the appropriations budget could grow as a result of the $10 student activity fee boost passed last semester.
Original fee increase legislation included pushing $30,000 into appropriations. Some senators were disappointed over the majority of funds going to Parkfest instead of student groups. Lacking daylight over budget priorities, line items were later removed from the bill.