Activities Funding Board causes problems for SGA

When students voted in the November 2005 Student Government Association elections to increase the student fee $4, they didn’t know the increase would lock nearly one-fourth of SGA’s annual budget into a single fund, an SGA adviser.Dedicating $76,500 to one fund is still causing budgeting headaches today, said Larry Markley, SGA adviser.

The money is locked into the Student Activities Funding Board, which, before the vote, was originally meant to receive $50,000 a year, former SGA treasurer Brian Andrew said.

SGA’s total annual budget is $315,000, Markley said.

Andrew said the $76,500 allocation would stay the same each year through 2009, which Markley said means other programs will be left scrambling for the money until then.

SGA intended the AFB to be a program to help fund student organizations, but instead SGA caused another problem as to how it distributed money, Markley said.

As a result of the distribution to the AFB, Markley said, there was a cut in Programming Council’s budget. Andrew, the 2006 SGA treasurer, said it was difficult to keep the budget balanced with AFB receiving roughly a quarter of it and PC receiving half of it.

In the fiscal year prior to the vote, SGA was running at a $30,250 deficit, and Markley said the increase was meant to allow that rate of spending to continue.

Andrew said he thought AFB was a good program that used money well, but cuts were required to give the money to AFB and cease deficit spending, thus balancing the budget.

Markley said the full effect of the vote won’t be known until this years’ budgeting process begins because it will be the first year all of the recent changes will be incorporated at the same time. This includes PC no longer receiving a guaranteed 50 percent of the budget.

Andrew said, “[the current SGA treasurer] has the unenviable task of trying to create a balanced budget and yet stay true to what the student body asked for.”

Nate Arnold, current SGA treasurer, said the writer of the proposal was former SGA member Sebastian Moleski.

Markley said he thought the referendum was badly worded and purposely written to confuse voters into approving some sort of fee increase.

“[Moleski] had everybody confused about what really was in the document,” Markley said.

The bill was confusing, so no one read it right and now that it is in effect, people don’t know if that’s what they wanted, Markley said.

“I’m not sure everyone who voted on this legislation was aware of the size of amount of money AFB would end up with or that it would affect the budget so substantially,” Markley said.

Thomas Guidry, a former SGA member, also thought that the vote was poorly worded.

“Sebastian made sure some increase would get passed by the wording of the legislation,” Guidry said. “It made it difficult to vote for no increase.”

In an e-mail, Moleski said he and the rest of SGA tried to offer the students choices and do things in a democratic way.

“That was one of the reasons we didn’t just ask a yes/no question during the referendum but rather asked how much, if at all, the students would be willing to pay additionally and for what,” Moleski said. “They could have easily voted for no increase in all areas we asked.”

Dave Watson, SGA president in 2005, said, “People understood they wanted to give money to SGA.”

Andrew said he voted no on the increase and told others to do the same, but when he became treasurer he did his best to honor the students’ wishes and create a balanced budget.

Arnold said he was glad he was no longer required to give 50 percent of the budget to PC and that he doesn’t think locking $76,500 into the AFB is, “necessarily a bad thing.”

“It is a fund that helps students and gives them their money back,” Arnold said. “But we’ll find out if it needs to be tweaked when I get started on the budgeting process.”

Read more about why the SGA was overbudgeted and what the university says about it Wednesday in the second part of this four-part series.