Budget proposal includes cuts

    A.S. President Christopher Sweeten has proposed across-the-board cuts to student organizations and college councils as part of an effort to close a budget gap in initial talks over next year’s budget.

    Source: ASUCSD, May 13

    “We have very little money available to work with, so we are all having to take cuts,” Vice President Finance Greg Murphy said. “This includes our stipends, our services, our outreach programs and even our student organizations, unfortunately. We only have a certain amount of money to work with so we need to set our priorities fairly.”

    The budget’s revenue projection will likely force multiple cuts because of a significantly smaller amount carried forward from the current year’s operations, according to Murphy. The carry forward amount is down $74,500, or 42 percent, from the budget approved last spring. Part of the decrease is the result of low profits by student-run businesses managed by the A.S. enterprises office, he said.

    In order to increase funding for A.S. Safe Rides, college councils stand to lose money under the proposed plan. Last year, each college received 50 cents per student on top of a base sum of $3,500. At an informal budget meeting, Sweeten incorporated changes that increased the amount paid per student to 70 cents this year and eliminated the base sum, which he said would allow funding for A.S. Safe Rides to grow. The program provides free transportation home to all UCSD undergraduate students, primarily those who are stranded or too inebriated to drive themselves.

    “A.S. Safe Rides is a high priority for us because it is one of those things that directly benefits the majority of the student body and is directly recognized as being provided by A.S.,” Murphy said. “We need to come up with a feasible plan to eliminate excessive and abusive use of this service by an individual student while at the same time being financially responsible so that students’ money isn’t being wasted.”

    Lack of funding to A.S. Safe Rides over past years has created overspending, according to Thurgood Marshall College Senior Senator Kate Pillon. Last year, the program — called Triton Taxi at the time — received $17,500. Under the current proposal, A.S. Safe Rides would be allocated $28,400, representing the minimal amount necessary to run such an operation, Pillon said.

    Although colleges with smaller student populations stand to lose money under the plan, a larger fee referendum for those colleges makes up the difference, according to Sixth College Senior Senator Matt Corrales. Under its referendum, Sixth College receives eight dollars per student.

    “We have one of the largest referendums on campus, which makes up for the cut to college council funding,” he said. “Personally, I like seeing the money going directly to students and services for students instead of filtering through college councils.”

    Cutting college council funding may be a move toward stripping college councils from A.S. support, Pillon said.

    “To have A.S. fund colleges even a little is an acknowledgment of their value,” she said. “I think that the college system brings a lot to the university, and totally detaching college councils from A.S. is a move I think will hurt our campus.”

    The proposed budget would also eliminate individual line items for Cultural Celebration and Excel Leadership Conference and incorporate those funds into the general funds available for request by student organizations. This change was meant to force events such as Cultural Celebration, which is sponsored annually by Thurgood Marshall College, to request funds from the Student Organizations Funding Advisory Board like other campus groups, according to Murphy. SOFAB is the main financial advisory committee for all quarterly student organization funding.

    “We are holding all organizations and events at the same standard and requiring everyone to go through the SOFAB process to ensure equal treatment and fair practices,” he said.

    Although requiring the cultural events to apply through SOFAB is understandable, Pillon said, she was concerned that the $287,750 unallocated student organizations pot, which would take a 3.7 percent cut under the proposed budget, would be too small to fund all needed organizations.

    “It’s OK to move toward subjecting everything to the same scrutiny,” she said. “But how do we justify keeping ‘Student Org Unallocated’ at the same level? How is it fair to have orgs and Cultural Celebration pull from that same pot?”

    Stipends for A.S.-funded student services, such as Student-Run Television and KSDT radio, would be eliminated under the latest draft of the proposed budget. Income from A.S. enterprises, like the ropes course and A.S. Lecture Notes, that previously funded the stipends wasn’t able to sustain a level of profits needed for student services, according to Murphy.

    “We have no money to allocate towards stipends [for] our services,” he said. “I would still prefer to maintain at least part of their stipends — it’s just not possible at this point.”

    Both KSDT general co-manager Sam Abraham and operations manager Kip Mitchell said they were disappointed with the proposal, but acknowledged that their stipends had initially been insignificant. The KSDT general manager currently receives $20 per week, while all other staff positions receive a $15 stipend.

    “It’s not like we’re in this for the money,” Mitchell said. “At the rate we were getting paid before, it was not representative of the time we actually put in our student service, but it was rather just to get at least a little something for compensation. To lose that, I’m disappointed, but our budget has been cut so much it’s not like I didn’t expect it.”

    Stipends for all A.S. executive board positions would take a cut of 40 percent from last year. In addition to scaling back pay for commissioners and vice presidents, Sweeten’s budget would eliminate stipends for all 24 college senators. Last year, each senator received a $10 stipend each week for 30 weeks.

    Cutting senator stipends would free up much-needed money for other priorities, Sweeten said during an informal budget meeting with councilmembers. However, abolishing those stipends would also remove senator accountability to the A.S. Council, according to Murphy.

    “If a senator is never showing up to meetings, A.S. can do nothing to kick them out of office,” he said. “Whereas if we gave a stipend to each senator and threatened to take away their weekly stipend for each meeting they miss, senators would be more accountable to A.S.”

    However, the council has not penalized absent senators in past years, allowing them to receive stipends even when they did not attend.

    Sweeten suggested academic compensation in place of stipends, including school credit.

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