Senate: Where Does the Money Come From?

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Katie Ward
Staff Writer

In the first official Senate (ASUSF) meeting of the year, Vice President of Finance and sophomore Nick Wu stepped behind the podium to educate his fellow senators on updates that have been made to the Funded Account Code. The updates to the code–which dictate how Senate-sponsored student organizations obtain money–will either be adopted or denied based on the following week’s Senate vote.

This informational session led to a broader conversation about ASUSF Senate’s budget, spending, and source of money. Funded accounts — student organizations that are funded by Senate — receive their budget from the Student Activity Fee, a $97 charge that all enrolled students must pay every semester.

The amount of money that each organization receives is based on the following year’s expected revenue. These organizations are prohibited from raising other funds. “Even though funded accounts do raise a little bit of revenue, their intent is not to give it out to the community [outside of USF]. Senate does not raise extra money,” Wu says.

According to Wu, however, occasionally some organizations are unhappy or unsatisfied with the budget they receive. Wu says that this usually has something to do with changes in leadership: “Not everyone is happy [with the amount of money they receive] because Funded Account applications are approved for the following school year before a new council steps up.”

“If new members [the following year] want to achieve their own agenda, there is not enough money in their budget. That is how line item changes come into play.”

But where does the money for these line item changes come from? A line item change is when a student representative from a funded account requests a change in their budget, usually asking for additional funds. Wu explains that the funds for line item changes comes from the yearly surplus, which are funds that exceed the projected revenue.

He says, “Let’s take this year for example. We projected to have, let’s say, $700,000, but in fact, there are more freshmen than we expected to come to the school, and so we have $800,000 in revenue.” The extra $100,000 is set aside and can be used for such requests.

At the end of the year, the remaining surplus money goes to the reserves, which currently hold $500,000. According to Wu, reserves are saved exclusively for emergencies. On Tuesday of last week, the Finance Committee voted to present one of these said emergencies to Senate, so that they may all vote on whether to dip into the reserves to cover the costs.

At the end of last semester, in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, all of the paid positions held by funded accounts changed from a fixed stipend to an hourly wage.

He adds, “The total amount of salary expenses increased because of the extra benefits given to the workers, so now that will be considered an emergency.” Reserves are also used to pay for other campus programs, such as the purchase of a new Campus Safety vehicle.

Beyond discussion of budgetary matters, Senate also discussed what can be considered a funded account. In Article V, VI, and VII of the unofficially revised Funded Account Code, there are a list of characteristics that determine what a Funded Account must possess, how they obtain that status, and how that status is maintained.

According to the code, Senate-funded student organizations must be “supervised by ASUSF Senate and its Finance Committee, act as a model for clubs or organizations, benefit or serve a large percentage of the USF undergraduate student body, and be open to all members of ASUSF.”

Any organizations hoping to achieve Funded Account status must possess all of the above characteristics, and have already “exhausted ASUSF Events Funding and any other financial options,” according to the revised code.

At that point, organizations may approach Senate with a written document explaining why they should be made a Funded Account, submit a complete budget proposal to the Finance Committee, have one full-time faculty member educated on the subject as an advisor, and be voted in by both the Finance Committee and Senate with a two-thirds majority vote or higher.

If new organizations are introduced to the Funded Account family, Senate’s overall budget must be adjusted appropriately. According to Wu, “ Logically, the way we would [rebudget after an account is added] is that other organizations have a smaller share. Another possible way is to raise the activity fee.”

The most recently added funded accounts were Los Locos and Greek Council. According to Wu, these were both added “three or four years ago,” so members of the current finance committee have not yet encountered the procedures required to welcome a new funded account.

ASUSF Senate will likely vote on the updated code during the meeting scheduled for Feb. 10. If the code is adopted, it will be implemented immediately following the meeting. Senate’s weekly meetings are open to all members of the student body, and take place on Tuesday nights from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

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