Facing a tight deadline before spring break, the student senate approved the Student Fee Committee’s 2009–10 academic year budget on March 18 by a vote of 19 to 3, with one abstention.
The vote, after a contentious meeting which included a presentation by SFC Chair Aimeera Flint, moved the record $14.7 million budget to the desk of President Wim Wiewel. Wiewel must approve the budget before it is passed to the Oregon University System for final approval.
“The senate is one of the hardest bodies to get things through,” said ASPSU President Hannah Fisher after the meeting. “The fact that it passed today is huge.”
A record $21.4 million was requested this year by 94 student groups, including 18 groups that requested an increase of more than 100 percent and 10 groups that asked for an increase of more than 50 percent. Last year, $12.8 million was requested, with $11.3 million allocated.
During initial hearings, the SFC drew criticism from certain groups, including Portland State Professional Sound and the Vanguard, that felt some of the committee’s questions regarding race and sexual identity were inappropriate. The committee later apologized for the questions.
Some senators during the budget’s presentation took issue with the quick turnaround time, as they were encourage to vote on the budget the same day of the presentation. The senate has 21 days in which to approve the budget.
“I’ve been involved in student government for three years, and I am pissed,” said senator Daniel Lyons in a passionate speech. “I feel like this process needs to be reviewed.”
Despite the protestations of Lyons and a few others, the budget request passed quickly after the time for debate was over.
How we got to $14.7 million
To help reduce the requests to a manageable number, the SFC enacted a 25 percent cut to all groups that requested a 100 percent increase from this year’s budget. Several groups’ budgets withstood more than $100,000 in reductions, including athletics.
The athletic department requested $2.2 million but was allocated $1.9 million, while all scholarships, graduate assistants, student wages and stipends were spared. Men’s sports requested $1.1 million but were left with $646,544 after cuts, while women’s sports requested $965,052 and ended up with $594,761.
After allocating $14.7 million, the SFC was left with a $3.2 million deficit after collecting $11.5 million this year.
Each $500,000 of the $3.2 million deficit represents a $10 increase in the student incidental fee that all students pay, currently $202 per term. To simply raise the fee to compensate would have meant a $65–70 increase to the student fee.
Instead of raising the fee by that amount, the committee decided to use $1.7 million in SFC reserve money, which still left a $1.5 million deficit, or a $30 dollar increase to the fee.
Due to rising tuition costs and the impending $41 Campus Recreation fee to pay for the new recreation center, the committee decided against raising the fee by that much and instead reduced budgets by 15 percent across the board, not counting stipends, assistantships, student wages and other personnel.
That move allowed the committee to raise the student fee by only $10, to $212 a term.
“I feel great,” said a visibly relieved Flint after the vote. “[The budget] really is basic. Overall, I tried to make it pretty self-explanatory.”