As the result of a recently discovered surplus in the Students’ Association budget, the SA Senate, in accordance with the SA Appropriations Committee will decide how to handle the money.

Because the SA budget is not audited annually, Speaker of the Senate and Take Five Scholar Ashley Conner said, the organization was not fully aware of their financial status until approximately midsummer, when the audit was completed and the budget was balanced. Though there is a mandated surplus every year, it is larger this year due to unspent money that had been budgeted for student groups last year.

This year’s surplus has become an issue because last year student groups requested $130,000 more than the $750,000 SAAC ultimately budgeted for them.

Conner stressed that having more money than the SA anticipated does not change the status of the allocation process. Instead, senate will consider the additional money part of the regular budget rather than an opportunity to “spend wildly.”

Conner also clarified that the extra money is not the result of covert fundraising or a “secret stash that the SA has hidden away,” as some students have joked.

“This is not a slush fund,” Conner said. “This money is part of the surplus and it would be a serious miscarriage of fiscal responsibility for us to start spending wildly just because we found more money than we expected. The surplus is part of the regular budget, and it is maintained to meet the legal requirements we have to insure our budget against unforeseeable loss. Although we definitely have more than the legal requirement, it is not money that should be counted toward our annual budgetary needs per se.”

Class of 2004 senator Peter Ordal agreed with Conner and said the extra money will be a boost to the workings of this year’s SA, it will be handled carefully and wisely.

“The figure the auditors came up with was a relief considering what we’ve gone through in the past” Ordal said, “but I don’t want people to get giddy. I’m sure we could burn through the money pretty fast if we didn’t think about the long term.”

To organize the budgetary system, the Senate makes the decisions about how much money should be allocated to which group for which programs, while SAAC deals with the day-to-day operations of the budget. According to SA Treasurer and junior Clark Van Vliet, the biggest budgetary move that the SA is anticipating is an increase in the supplemental fund, used to provide funds to groups beyond their stated budget.

“We have given out supplemental funds already, and we’re encouraging more groups to come ask us for funds. In addition, we might cut back on groups’ income requirements now that we have the money to do so,” Van Vliet said.

Of the over $500,000 in the SA account, senate and SAAC can decide how to spend $300,000 because they are mandated to use $200,000 for insured equipment, emergencies and auditing expenses, Van Vliet said.

Director of Student Activities and Wilson Commons Anne-Marie Algier cautioned the existence of the extra money in the budget should not preclude efforts by the SA to increase the student activities fee.

Algier said raising the activities fee will help meet the increase in demands on the budget at the start of the year.

She hopes that some of this year’s surplus money will be used to improve the quality of the Ruth Merrill Center. “Right now the room is not welcoming to student groups and I would like to make the room more attractive, a place for all students to benefit from as a place to relax or hang out.”

SA President and senior Lonny Mallach said that despite the extra work that goes into deciding how the money will be spent, and the necessity of handling the money with the utmost wariness, the situation is a relief when considered in light of last year’s budgetary concerns of the SA.

“We will handle the process by looking at our options. There are always groups looking for money and, obviously, never a lack of things to spend money on,” Mallach said. “Last spring during final budgeting, some of the groups felt budgets were cut more than they expected, and with the recent findings, we may very well give out extra money to groups in supplimentals.”

Shore can be reached at rshore@campstimes.org.



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