Facing pressure to be ‘fiscally responsible,’ SGA cuts student organization funding

Ben Carrington, SGA president, and Driana Lebron, student activity treasurer, explain organization finances to the rest of SGA. (Donald Halsing / THE GATEPOST)

SGA met to discuss and allot the yearly budgets of six organizations, including itself, on Friday, Feb. 22.

The combined total requested from all organizations amounted to $344,055, leaving $99,644 in SGA’s Unallocated Fund. This fund is the total of all students’ required activity fees, which is $140 per student per academic year. The amount in the fund is contingent upon the number of students who enroll each year.

According to Driana Lebron, student activity treasurer, enrollment is projected at 3,345 undergraduate students, making the total predicted Unallocated Fund $468,300 for fiscal year (FY) 2020 before budget requests.

After 30 minutes of discussion, SGA members passed a motion to debate each individual line item of each organization’s request, instead of debating only the total amounts.

Parliamentarian Adam Scanlon said he has been on SGA the longest and from his experience, this was the most effective method.

Senator Matty Bennet – now vice president – said it “seems a lot more complicated to me.”

President Ben Carrington said, “We are asking clubs to be as fiscally responsible as possible,” which he said extended to SGA itself.

The first organization to be seen by SGA was The Gatepost. Bailey Morrison, editor-in-chief, and Jillian Poland, associate editor, requested $41,673.50, a less than 1-percent increase from FY19. 

The greatest line-item increase was for the license renewal for the inclusion of puzzles in the paper, which both members said was “very popular.”

The Gatepost’s request for its “promotional items and recruitment events” line item was $1,400, $100 less than the promotional item cap of $1,500. They were allotted $1,200 for this line item, with nine senators voting in favor and three voting against.

SGA members said cuts are happening across the board for this particular line item, which was seen in the final budget allotments of every club in attendance – all received a $200 deduction from their promotional budget line item, except the Student Union Activities Board (SUAB).

According to its submitted written request, SUAB combined the maximum allotment of $1,500 with $500 for office supplies to create a $2,000 line item titled “publicity/marketing.” This is a six-percent increase from FY19. 

SUAB request was presented by SGA senator and SUAB President Kayleigh MacMaster. SGA allocated the full amount, $140,000, a 0.25-percent increase from FY19.

WDJM requested $15,946.10, an increase of approximately 23 percent from FY19. 

The line item with the largest percent increase, at 67 percent, was “Station Administration,” covering FCC compliance expert fees and a station inspection fee, according to SILD director Sara Gallegos. This also includes a raise for WDJM’s station administrator, who has not had a raise in three years.

However, the club requested 54 percent less for “station events,” planning to move in the direction of “lower-scale events.”

The Hilltop Players requested $20,000 to cover production costs and promotional items. The bulk of its budget, $16,000, will be directed toward its yearly musical production. This is a 6.25-percent increase from FY19.

Dance Team requested $25,784.35, a 1-percent decrease from FY19. The majority of its budget goes toward “off-campus performances,” including bus trips to Providence Bruins and Boston Celtics games.

SGA divided its budget into six different requests – general, training, diversity, benevolence, banquet, and travel and conference. These requests amounted to $99,451.45.

Carrington and Lebron presented the written requests to the rest of SGA, who voted on each line item of each individual budget. 

SGA requested a total of $51,145,45 for its general budget, a 2-percent decrease from FY19. This request included line items such as “general and operating expenses,” “catering,” “Week of Kindness,” and the “Thomas Ames Scholarship” – a $4,200 stipend for SGA’s president.

SGA senators moved to cut the “catering” line item by $300 and the “Week of Kindness” line item by $1,500. They also moved to cut “student advocacy” by $300, a line item that provides funds for SGA members and other students to visit the Massachusetts State House.

Senators also moved to cut SGA’s training budget by $1,150, having initially requested $9,856. This budget covers the SGA summer retreat and orientation. The total training budget came out to $8,706, after long deliberation about the nature of the retreat, including transportation and location.

For its diversity budget, SGA senators moved to cut the previous FY19 allocation of $10,000 by 50 percent, moving the $5,000 to its general budget. SGA also cut its travel and conference budget by $1,000, making it $19,000.

Senators moved to allocate the full requested amounts of the banquet and benevolence budgets – $12,700 and 1,750, respectively.

Former Vice President Alex Backer, motioned to cut the banquet budget to $10,700, saying the money could better serve organizations, which have all had to cut their budgets at SGA’s request. The motion failed.

Bennet motioned to fund the full amount. saying he has “worked in the banquet industry before” and has a good idea of the necessary funds for budgets. Carrington added last year, SGA had to allocate last-minute funds for this budget, as well.

The amount allocated for all of SGA’s budget requests totaled $96,301.45.

Due to these cuts, the amount in the Unallocated Fund is currently $104,394.60.

Many senators expressed surprise that the meeting did not last as long as expected – according to the distributed meeting agenda, over five hours were divided among the six different clubs. The meeting was called to action at approximately 4:30 p.m., and was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

In other news:

-Kephi Alkay was unanimously sworn in as a senator for the Class of 2021.

-Patty Cooney was unanimously sworn in as a senator for the Class of 2019.

[Editor’s Note: Bailey Morrison and Jillian Poland are members of The Gatepost’s editorial board.]

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