On Tuesday, March 12, the GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee released its draft budget, meeting about 62.3 percent of funding requests. FinApp had $979,200 to allocate among $1,571,532.31 worth of requests, which left some groups with only a fraction of their requests met.
The amount requested this year is approximately $60,000 more than last year’s total requests of $1,511,078.04. Last year, the student activity budget increased by raising the student activity fee from $125 to $150. This year, the fee increased through inflation to $153. To meet all of the requests, the fee would have to be $246.
The largest recipient of funds is the Advisory Board for Club Sports, with $234,000. The group will receive the second largest increase of any group, after the Student Activities Commission, which has an $8,000 increase over last year’s funding. FinApp denied ABCS full funding for a club sports trainer program, but encouraged ABCS to continue the pilot program with its additional funding.
“Currently, there is no health-care system in place for club sports athletes. Athletes have the choice of either calling GERMS when an injury occurs, or attempting to schedule an appointment with student health,” wrote Meredith Kolff, Chair of ABCS, in an email to the Voice about why a full-time trainer was necesary. “The injuries that are more likely to cause permanent damage are the types of injuries that could be prevented with continued attention and care by an athletic trainer.”
ABCS also needs increased funding because of an increasing number of club teams attending regional and national championships. “ABCS was also incredibly pleased that GUSA recognized the increase in club sports teams who qualify for nationals and need additional funding as they become more competitive and successful,” wrote Kolff.
The Performing Arts Advisory Council received all of the funding it requested, $32,500, which is less than it received last year. Those funds will go to support programming and also the estimated costs of moving storage and practice space out of New South during the construction period. Some of the costs associated with the New South construction are moving the pianos, purchasing and constructing portable mirrors, and moving the wood and marley dance floors, according to Ron Lignelli, the administrator for PAAC. Lignelli estimates the cost of the New South construction to the PAAC groups will be $7,410, but much of the planning has not been finalized.
SAC received $158,000, which combined with funding from tuition dollars and a $7,557 contract with Coca Cola, meets approximately 67 percent of SAC’s requested funds. In the draft budget FinApp noted that student groups “routinely request far more than they actually need for events” and that a significant portion of funding goes into “social” food. According to Jennifer Chiang (SFS ’15), the Chair of SAC, the organization passed a new amendment in its last meeting on March 11 to address food funding. By the new budget guidelines, $8.50 per person is the maximum funding level SAC will provide for food, with exceptions for groups such as the Grilling Society.
“Given that FinApp only allocated 50.08 percent of our request, SAC is not satisfied with its overall allocation,” wrote Chiang, in an email to the Voice. This percentage is how much the funding meets the remaining gap after factoring in tuition dollars and the Coca-Cola contract.
“It pains us to see that FinApp thinks that funding our groups at 67 percent is justifiable because that directly translates to many groups scaling down their programming,” Chiang wrote. “Therefore, SAC will be appealing this week to FinApp to ensure that our over one hundred student groups have an adequate budget.”
SAC has until next Tuesday to appeal the decision. Still, it is unlikely it will receive more funding. “At the end of the day, though, we’re still going to be dealing with the same roughly $970,000 figure,” said Sen. Sheila Walsh (COL ‘14), Chair of FinApp. “I think we’ll have to evaluate and really dig deep into the justification.”
The issue of student groups overestimating costs in anticipation of cuts remains. “I think it is inevitable that groups will try to inflate their requests, knowing that we are probably not going to fund them in full year after year,” Walsh said. However, Walsh believes the advisory boards are honest overall about their needs, citing PAAC as her chief example.
Others support the idea that student groups overstate their needs. “I’ve spoken with a number of student leaders about this with some confirming the theories, and others shocked that it happens,” Chiang wrote. “Because of this concern and the fact that we only received 50.08 percent of our request from FinApp, SAC will be reluctantly much stricter in evaluating whether costs are reasonable.”
This year’s budget is also a guide for funding in the future. It is already based on the previous year’s budget and allocations are very similar between the two.
“I think this year is different and might feel different for boards because this is the first year we are not seeing a substantial increase since SAFE reform,” Walsh said. “I think there might be an expectation that allocations are going to increase indefinitely and that’s just not realistic at all.”