December 3, 2014

SGA to spend $1.2 million in student dollars next year

SGA update

Every semester, each student is required to pay a $12 student activities fee. This fee, plus some extra funds from President Ramsey’s office, makes up the $1.2 million dollar budget that SGA will spend in 2015-2016.

Starting in early September, SGA began working on proposals for how to allocate those funds. The twelve school councils, along with the Student Activities Board and the Engage Lead Serve Board, were required to submit their own budget proposals for 2015-2016, which were reviewed by the senate appropriations committee.

The appropriations committee then gave a recommended budget for a senate vote, which occurred on Nov. 18. Senators voted to pass the entire budget.

“I think that students should be aware of how many hours went into coming up with a budget that could work,” said Benjamin Leamon, chair of the appropriations committee.

Leamon serves as one of two vice presidents on the graduate student council, the SGA senate’s liaison to SAB and the director of green initiatives in ELSB.

He explained the process that begins when a council proposes their individual budget to the appropriations committee.

“The first thing was to look at the actual numbers, to see if those made any sense. But the biggest thing was not to look, say for example, at an event or a particular expense versus the number of students. It was to get an idea of what the council wanted to do, and how they were serving their students, and then to figure out if that was the best use of student funds.”

In total, the school councils received $165,000 for programming. The amount varied for each school, with the highest amounts going to the medical school and Speed school ($25,800 each) and the lowest going to music school ($900).

The Student Activities Board received almost 40 percent of the $1.2 million dollar budget, with $455,500 in funding for the upcoming year.

SAB is responsible for major events like welcome week and homecoming week, cookouts at the Red Barn and the International Fashion Show. The biggest line item on their budget is the concert series, which will cost students $125,000 in the upcoming year.

Tra Taylor, SAB finance director, spoke at the Nov. 18 senate meeting to explain the size of their budget.

“(The concert series) was not an SAB initiative, per say, as much as a Student Government Association initiative. If you are familiar with the 2020 plan, you will see that SAB is mentioned two times directly. One of those is to have a concert fund to give us the competitive advantage to compete with some of the other schools in the state,” said Taylor.

The 2020 plan that Taylor references is actually the Student 2020 plan, which was drafted by in 2010 by SGA and based on about 1,000 student surveys.

“That was O.J. Oleka’s year, and it was passed in 2010. It was really trying to hear what students wanted in terms of student programming,” said Brandon McReynolds, former SGA chief justice. “Though that was only four years ago, campus was a lot different at that time. I mean, that is pre-Ville Grill, pre-Cardinal Towne and things of that nature.”

The Jeremih concert, which was held on a rainy day during homecoming week, was a product of SAB’s concert series, an initiative that students back in 2010 wanted to see on campus. The concert cost $50,000, and around 1000 students attended.

“I think that some of it was weather,” said Leamon of the low turnout. “We only have a couple of concerts to really look at, so it is hard to get a feel for how full they are going to be. Still, between 800 and 1000 people is not bad.”

When asked if SAB kept demographic records of student attendance to ensure that all student interests were being met, Leamon said, “Efforts are there, but they are sort of limited by technology.”

McReynolds has been advocating for better ways to get data about student attendance at SGA events.

“I would always say to students: Push your SGA, push those organizations to do everything they can to get attendance numbers, to get demographic numbers from each event so that we can better understand what it is,” McReynolds said. “Because it is one thing to qualify and believe that it was a good event, but we all think the events we put on are good events. It is another thing to try to see who it is reaching. Is it reaching enough people, spending X amount of dollars on an event when only X amount of people show up?”

With the large amount of money circulating through SGA, SAB and ELSB, there are policies in place to ensure that student government leaders spend those funds appropriately.

“Since they are university funds, the policies and procedures that each university department has to follow has to be followed by the Student Government Association as well,” said Tim Moore, director of student activities and adviser to the appropriations committee.

Councils receive their budgets in two parts, the second of which is applied for and reviewed by the appropriations committee.

The large amount of money entrusted to SGA, SAB and ELSB is an effort for students to have control over their own student programming.

“It was tough to want to expand and increase SGA funding when everyone is hurting right now and has been for the past few years,” said Leamon. “It just forces us to get a lot better with how we spend our money, and it really encourages us, mandates us, to spend every dollar the best we can.”

For students concerned about SGA spending, McReynolds and Leamon offered a few solutions.

“If I were a student and I was concerned, I would ask for SGA, ELSB and SAB to do more things to hold themselves accountable. Buy equipment, invest in infrastructure that allows them to get better and stronger analytics about each of their events,” said McReynolds.

“Certainly, it is a lot of money, and this all does come from student fees, but that is why the councils, the representatives and the senators are so open to concerns. Any of us within SGA can be contacted with questions, comments, concerns,” said Leamon.

McReynolds suggested that interested students consider a position in SGA, ELSB or SAB.

“Being a former chief justice and someone in charge of elections, I think the number one way is to get involved in the process in any way that you can.”

The SGA election process, of course, will begin in January. The election rules packet is available at SGA’s webpage for students interested in running for office.


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