SGA increases overall student organization funding

(This was the last budget meeting for many senior eBoard members. Photo by Amanda Martin.)

SGA allocated a combined $136,318.28 to three student organizations, including itself, during the second session of its annual budget meeting on Feb. 16.

Between the two sessions of the budget meeting, SGA allocated a combined $332,131.03. This is an 11 percent increase from the $299,566 SGA allocated during the budget meeting last year.

During Friday’s five-hour meeting, representatives from WDJM, the Hilltop Players and SGA presented their Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budgets for approval.

SGA President Kyle Rosa and Student Activity Treasurer Sarah Horwitz presented six budgets that combined fund SGA operations, club trips, All-University Banquet and other student activities. They requested a total of $102,650.28, an 18 percent increase from what was allocated during last year’s budget meeting.

After reviewing all the budgets, SGA allocated itself $104,650.28, a 21 percent increase from what it allocated itself during last year’s budget meeting.

SGA allocated $53,139.08 for its general budget. This budget goes toward operations, including club supplies, Sam the Ram’s payroll, CollegiateLink and a $4,200 Thomas Ames Scholarship for the SGA president.

SGA allocated itself $10,000 for SGA outreach programs, which include hospitality tables, stress relief bags and homecoming shirts. This is double the amount SGA requested last year. Horwitz said they had to request more money throughout the year to fund outreach and have so far spent $11,000 for FY ‘18. 

Horwitz also introduced a new budget item of $350 to provide food and supplies for Presidents Council, a meeting for all campus club presidents organized by the SGA Vice President.

Presidents Council attendance has been historically low, but current SGA Vice President Jack Capello said he has made the meetings mandatory and more accessible. He said now approximately 40 people attend each meeting.

Senators debated whether $350 was adequate funding for the meetings, which can take place two to four times a semester. Senators argued more money would be needed to provide food for the attendees since the meetings typically take place during a free period students use to eat.

Senator Danielle Shaw said she believed “coordinating” food for the event would make it much more presentable.

Rosa said Presidents Council still runs without money being allocated to the event, but more money allows the event to be a greater success.

Senator Kirsten Hoey made a motion to allocate $1,400 to Presidents Council, $1,050 more than was requested. The motion passed with 19 for, four opposed and one abstaining.

SGA allocated $6,200 for its training budget. It increased the budget by $2,200 in order to fund training sessions throughout the year and to afford an overnight trip for its Leadership Weekend. Senators said an overnight trip would create a better environment for bonding.

SGA allocated $10,125 for its diversity budget, a 131 percent increase from FY ‘18. The budget is intended to promote co-sponsorships between SGA and other clubs, organizations and offices across campus.

Horwitz said the diversity account has never been more active, which is why they are requesting more money for FY ‘19. Some examples of co-sponsorships funded by the diversity account include the No Hate T-shirts, the “Ramtastic” condoms and The Gatepost’s trip to accept Society of Professional Journalists awards last year. 

SGA allocated $1,750 for its benevolence budget. This funding goes toward seven $250 stipends for its Benevolence Awards. This is one more award than in previous years. The theme of the seventh award has not been chosen yet.

SGA allocated $12,700 for its All-University Banquet, a 12 percent increase from FY ‘18.

Nine hundred dollars for a photo booth was cut from the budget before it was presented to SGA.

Horwitz said, “This is not definite in any way, but there have been past issues with photo booths in terms of different behaviors being used, where SILD, in the future, might cut them completely because of different things that have occurred with them.”

SGA allocated $20,736 to its travel and conference budget, a 26 percent increase from FY ‘18. This budget is used to fund student conference trips throughout the year, as well as SGA’s trip to the American Student Government Association (ASGA) conference.

Senators debated the efficacy of SGA’s trip to the ASGA. While Rosa said the conference was a valuable learning experience, eBoard members who went to the conference did not believe it was useful.

Student Trustee Karl Bryan said, “Going to this conference, I can tell you that it is absolutely useless. … I think that having on-campus training for our next eBoard would be a much better use of time and resources.”

Social Events Coordinator Hailey Small and Class and Club Treasurer Molly Fennessey both agreed the conference did not provide them with any applicable training because other schools run their SGAs very differently from FSU.

Small said, “It can very quickly turn into a $1,342 mistake.”

Parliamentarian Ben Carrington and Secretary Bridget Green said the conference would offer important training for a new eBoard members.

Senator Seth Signa said, “What I’ve seen is three eBoard members who have said this is not worth it and two who have defended it but – with all due respect – didn’t go.”

SGA allocated $1,342 for the conference, pending the eBoard be given the freedom to choose a better suited conference if possible.

The Hilltop Players requested $17,350, a 15 percent decrease from FY ‘18.

Vice President Samantha Durrance said they are cutting their Upright Citizen’s Brigade event due to low attendance. The Upright Citizen’s Brigade is an improv comedy group.

Durrance said, “It was so much money for so little reward.” Removing this event cut $4,600 from the Hilltop Players’ budget.

The Hilltop Players added a new recruitment event this year called the Hilltop Social. During the event, which is open to all students, attendees can have snacks and watch a filmed version of whichever show Hilltop will be putting on that semester.

Durrance said many people who came to the event this year joined the Hilltop Players because they were able to see the show and talk to directors ahead of auditioning. 

Hilltop requested $1,400 for this event. The representatives said they were open to suggestions from SGA members because, as the event is so new, they do not know if $1,400 will be enough to fund food and film rights for an event each semester.

Hoey asked if any of the Hilltop representatives knew how much was spent on the first Hilltop Social.

Durrance said, “Currently, we do not know that. … It’s kind of hard, because we’ve recently gone through a big change in leadership, so we’re kind of still a little bit in the dark on what we spend. But hopefully in the coming time we will figure that out.”

After some debate about the cost of such events, Horwitz said, “So, this might be going out on a limb on my part, but I believe what you have here sounds great, and I feel like it’s probably good enough for one Hilltop Social for either the fall headliner or spring headliner.”

She added, “However, I do believe you have the capability if you wanted to do socials also for maybe your minor shows. I think that would be an awesome way to gain new members as well.”

Horwitz made a motion to allocate $2,800 for Hilltop Social events.

Some Hilltop members began crying when offered this amount.

Hilltop Treasurer Tiffany Santiago, fighting back tears, said the Hilltop Players work really hard and often have to fight to get funding. “You don’t know how much this means to us.”

Senate Chair Mike O’Brien also became emotional and joked, “You guys are good.”

SGA voted to allocate the full $2,800 to the Hilltop Players, increasing their overall budget to $18,750.

WDJM was allocated $12,918 after SGA cut $60 from its promotional items line to comply with the $1,500 cap for club promotional items.

To finish the meeting, O’Brien asked everyone to stand and give Horwitz a round of applause for a well-organized budget meeting. This was Horwitz’s last annual budget meeting as treasurer, as she will graduate this spring.