Budget caps

The Student Fee Committee has established travel and stipend spending caps for student groups and has released its initial budget allocations for groups and departments.

The Student Fee Committee has established travel and stipend spending caps for student groups and has released its initial budget allocations for groups and departments.

Student groups received an approximate total of $230,000 less than what was requested. Some groups are fine with the budget limitations, while others fear their groups will cease to exist on a smaller budget.

The SFC Web site encouraged groups to sign up for an appeal, which is a five-minute hearing, through the Student Activities and Leadership Programs office by 5 p.m. on Feb. 24.

SALP Director Aimee Shattuck feels that the response from groups has been, on the whole, positive. She was present at an open forum held Feb. 26. for student groups.

“There were questions on caps for stipends and travel. It affected some groups a lot more than others, [and] some groups were not affected at all,” Shattuck said.

This year the SFC had the goal to “shave down budgets,” Shattuck said.

The committee requested that no group or department ask for more than a 5 percent increase this year.

The SFC presented a slideshow at the forum, and later e-mailed the presentation to student groups, describing Oregon legislation governing student fees (ORS 351.070), the guiding principles, and various numbers showing growth and spending within student groups.

The presentation stated that the student fee rose by $87 per student since the 2004–05 fiscal year, leading to a 66 percent increase in student fees within five years.

Caps have been established for the current fiscal year by the committee. This includes a travel cap at $2,500, a stipend cap at $3,000 and a student group total budget cap at $40,000. Awards and promotional items have a cap at $1,000, but after an appeal, that may be overruled by a three-quarters majority vote from the SFC.

SFC member William Zimmers said these caps were put in place to help “govern ourselves with viewpoint neutrality.”

After reviewing the initial budget allocation, Debate Team coordinator Kelly Welch said that the team’s stipends, trophy and travel budget were decreased.

“They told us during initial hearings our type of group would get something like $8,000 for travel, but they cut us to about $2,000…we requested far more than that. As it stands, it’ll be a miracle to have a competitive team at all this year,” Welch said.

The Debate Team has had many successes this year, including placing at the 2009 Pan Pacific Championships at Hawaii Pacific University, the 2009 Smelt Classic at Lower Columbia College, the 2009 Mahaffey Memorial Tournament at Linfield College and the 2010 Eagle Debate Invitational at Northwest University.

Welch did not want to comment further because the SFC has not yet decided on the group’s appeal and the final budget allocations have not been finalized.

At the appeals on Feb. 26, the SFC did state that the Debate Team is an “outlier” in the SFC’s new model of what it considers a student group.

“We do a have a really thoughtful discussion ahead of us,” said SFC Chair Johnnie Ozimkowski, in regards to the Debate Team’s budget.

Ozimkowski said he wants to be sure not to “open Pandora’s box” of student groups wanting what the Debate Team wants when they may be less deserving.

Shattuck said she feels this year’s SFC has done a good job at seeing how “individual requests have a larger impact on the whole.”

“[The SFC] is thinking about realistic incremental growth for student groups,” she said.

Shattuck also described that as the student fee budget increases over time, more money needs to be spent to cover SALP staff and accounting time. These resources are necessary to “administer that much money. It’s a ripple ballooning effect,” she said.

Also with the initial student fee budget allocations, the Oregon Student Association campus organizer position was cut for next year. Former ASPSU president and current student Courtney Morse currently holds this position.

Shattuck said she received an e-mail from Morse, directed to the SALP listserv. Morse stated that not every school chooses to have an OSA organizer, and she found only three other universities that did.

“OSA’s campus organizers contribute directly to the success of student efforts, statewide and federally, by providing professional expertise on campaign development and planning, grassroots organizing, and more,” Morse said.

During the appeals meeting on Feb. 26, the main “ask” of ASPSU Administrative Director Ed Hallman, in the appeal for ASPSU, was for the OSA campus organizer position to be restored.

“I helped mobilize and train students to effectively lobby state legislators in Salem. Thanks in part to those students’ lobbying efforts, additional funding was secured for the Oregon Opportunity Grant,” Morse said.

Zimmers admitted that there were a few “outliers” but otherwise, the SFC budget allocation appeals were “going well.”

“The student groups and departments seem to understand why caps are in place,” he said.

Hearings are “fast paced” but to be fair to everyone, all group hearings must remain at five minutes.

“The clock is on. [We] cut ourselves off, [we] cut them off,” Zimmers said, referring to the appeals process.

KPSU Station Manager Jeremy Doucette-Hardy said KPSU’s appeals hearing was on March 1. The station did not appeal every item that was cut and they did not argue against the travel or promotional caps put into place.

Doucette-Hardy said he has “tried to instill in the staff and station that there is a process in play.”

“I have faith in the process,” Doucette-Hardy said.

Along with their five minutes to appeal, Doucette-Hardy said KPSU prepared what he called a “hefty packet” for the SFC.

KPSU submitted additional documents and paperwork to help support its appeal request. Members of the staff submitted testimonial letters, and they attached clippings of KPSU news stories and posters of events.

“I hope the SFC really takes a look at the packet, to honor the process and their responsibilities…it would be the respectful thing to do,” Doucette-Hardy said.

Zimmers said many of this year’s elected members ran on a campaign goal to not raise the student fee and to possibly even lower it. He said that the current budget allocation could have little effect on future budgets, because “it could just go back to the way it used to be.”

Instead, Zimmers is looking forward to spring quarter when the SFC can begin reworking the guidelines for the next fiscal year.

“After going through this process, the [current] guidelines seem ineffective in dealing with scenarios we have come up against,” Zimmers said.

“The guidelines need to be changed to reflect SFC funded groups,” he said.

The SFC aims to have their last scheduled meeting on March 8, and have their budget complete and presentable for the ASPSU Senate on March 9. The bylaws state that the Senate would then have 21 days to review the budget and respond with any recommendations.

Information from the SFC to student groups in regards to its processes and policies
Oregon Revised Statute
Student fees, in accordance with ORS 351.070, are used to fund university programs and services that, in addition to the traditional academic elements of the university, further the cultural or physical development of the students at large.

At Portland State, in accordance with Oregon Administrative Rule 580.010.0090(2), the
Student Fee Committee has the authority and responsibility to:

a. Analyze and appraise budget requests;
b. Analyze and appraise year-end balances and reserve requests;
c. Conduct budget investigations;
d. Match Program requests for funding with available resources;
e. Recommend to the University President the budgets for Programs to
be funded by Student Fees after obtaining as broad a base of student
participation as possible; and
f. Recommend the level of Student Fees required to fund the proposed
g. To record and maintain a record of procedures and precedents to formally pass on to the next committee.

Guiding principles set by the current SFC
– Student fees are used to fund university programs and services that, in addition to the traditional academic elements of the university, further the cultural or physical development of the students at large
– It is a primary goal of the SFC to keep the fee at the same level and work towards eventually lowering it
-Fee-funded programs should be held to a high level of accountability and be good stewards of students’ money
– Growth of the programs within the student fee should be economically sustainable
– Funding from student fees should focus on the entire campus community and bringing resources to PSU
– The process of allocation should spread the precious resources within the student fee as evenly across the campus populace as possible