SFC questions answered

The final student group budgets for the coming year, as released by the 2008–09 Student Fee Committee, have caused confusion for administrators, the new SFC and student groups.

The final student group budgets for the coming year, as released by the 2008–09 Student Fee Committee, have caused confusion for administrators, the new SFC and student groups.

“The way to think about this last year is that it was a perfect storm. Everything that could go wrong did,” said Jess Goodwin, systems analyst manager for Student Affairs.

Line items at zero

As it stands now, student groups are unable to tell how much money the previous SFC allocated to them for two reasons: The first is that the numbers are not available via the SFC Online Budgeting System. The second, explained Goodwin, is that due to changes made by the previous SFC, most line items contain zeros. Line items are the projected costs for certain types of services and supplies, such as travel, phone equipment, etc. The only items that are filled in with allocated numbers are personnel and “services and supplies.”

“A problem with how things were handled by the SFC was the fact that a bottom line number was chosen by the SFC for each group, but they did not want to touch the personnel numbers,” Goodwin said.

“If the overall total [the SFC] chose for a group was $5,000 and the personnel allocation was $6,000, then [services and supplies] has to be listed at negative $1,000 to balance the numbers,” he said.

Also not listed in the online budgets is student group revenue. It is not included in the total because it would throw off the final SFC allocation totals that must balance between personnel and other expenses.

“You can’t just do 15 percent cuts across the board. You have to adjust line items to a bottom line, and the SFC didn’t do that,” said new SFC Chair Johnnie Ozimkowski.

Student groups left out

Goodwin says he suggested that the SFC visit with student groups individually to work out how to restructure their budgets—by adjusting specific line items—but the SFC did not take his suggestion and simply zero-funded the majority of budget line items.

“We thought that would be too complicated for student groups and decided to give them the freedom to work out how to spend the money in the way that was best for them,” said Tanja Miljevic, former SFC vice chair, who filled in as chair during the final budget approval process.

Because the new approach by last year’s SFC does not break the budget into specific amounts for line items—but instead gives student groups a lump sum—an existing SFC guideline is now being enforced that states that no student group can spend more than $1,200 above what was spent the previous year on any one line item. For instance, if a group was allocated $200 for the 2008–09 year, they can’t spend more than $1,400 on it this year with the money they are pulling from their lump sum.

“So a group can’t just go get a Cadillac,” Ozimkowski said.

Budgets temporarily unavailable

The final student group budgets are no longer displayed in the Online Budget System at the request of Ozimkowski, even though the budget information is supposed to be displayed as public record. He is waiting to release the budget numbers until after SFC liaisons are appointed to student groups at a meeting Friday.

“The [former] SFC had ample time to explain to the student groups what went on, but they didn’t, and they left it up to us … we simply inherited this mess,” Ozimkowski said.

President Wiewel weighs in

Miljevic claims that the budgets had to be adjusted in an unusual manner, and that the student fee will now be raised by about $18 for full-time students. Miljevic says changes were demanded of the SFC by the administration during the final budget approval process with President Wim Wiewel. Wiewel says that the protocol was followed and SFC members did not object to his suggested changes, which were intended to rein in SFC spending.

“We had a meeting and they [gave] an initial recommendation, at which time I expressed some of my concerns about depleting reserves so rapidly that next year’s SFC would have to raise the student fee [very] high to sustain this level of expenditures,” Wiewel said.

Wiewel believes that the SFC slashed athletics without justification and he asked that it be fully funded.

“It seemed like an arbitrary decision, so I asked them to reconsider and they did,” Wiewel said.

He claims that, as a result of the changes, the student fee was raised higher than initially estimated.

“In this process I can only request these things to the SFC, which makes the decision whether to come back with the revised recommendations. [They] were at the table when decisions were made and discussions held, and they never expressed any dissatisfaction at the time. It seems a little late in the game to raise questions about it.”

The future for students

Later this week, Ozimkowski will be sending an e-mail to student group leaders to alert them to the changes in their budgets, as well as let them know how to get information for interpreting those changes. The next SFC meeting will take place Friday, July 17. On Friday, Ozimkowski also plans on re-opening the Online Budgeting System to the general public.