Budget, Revisited

John Hanacek / Guardian

After tabling the 2010-11 executive budget last week, A.S. Council passed a new version that redirected $22,000 toward the Sun God Festival budget and funded $4,500 the Black Student Union’s Kwanzaa dinner.

A.S. President Wafa Ben Hassine first sent out a draft of the new executive budget to the council listserv on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The next morning, Oct. 20, Vice President of Student Life Kristina Pham and Warren Senator Maclen Zilber debuted an alternative budget that they had created, together with Sixth College Senator Parminder Sandhu.

In her official budget, Ben Hassine had asked each of the offices — Office of the President, Student Life, Finance and Resources and External Affairs — to take an across-the-board 8-percent cut. The allocation of the cuts was to be decided by the vice president in charge of each section.

According to Sandhu, major differences in the two budgets are that the alternative version does not cut equally from the different sectors, but instead preserves the funding of the Office of Student Life — specifically funding for student organizations and events such as Bear Garden and Sun God Festival —  and removes the senators’ $10 weekly stipend.

Bear Gardens, Sandhu said have the highest turnout of any A.S.-sponsored event after Sun God, and are indicative of the types of events that most benefits students.

In addition, the alternative budget asks for cuts to council development money and the complete removal of the speaker series.

According to Ben Hassine’s budget, approximately $22,000 was cut from the Sun God Festival budget, leading to an allocation of $508,000, compared to last year’s budget of approximately $550,000. However, this actual number is closer to $528,000 since $20,000 of the Sun God budget was placed in a separate line item called “Sun God Contingency,” which had been included in the $550,000 number from last year.

“This [alternative budget] preserves the spirit of what the students want,” Zilber said. “Students who voted for an activity fee referendum two years ago said they wanted more concerts and more events, and we want to try to allocate more to this department to reserve the intent of the referendum.”

Zilber, Sandhu and Pham had worked on this budget since Tuesday night, but had not consulted Ben Hassine.

“We did not consult Wafa because we felt the differences were too irreconcilable and would lead to unnecessary confrontation,” Sandhu said.

Ben Hassine said that the creation of the alternative budget was detrimental to the council’s effectiveness.

“[A.S. Concerts and Events] is preserved more than anything, and everything else is shafted,” Ben Hassine said. “Kristina thinks that student life is the most important, but A.S. isn’t just here to throw one big party.”

Ben Hassine said that the alternative budget contains incorrect information, such as overallocating benefits to the graphic artist salaries.

“The reason I chose across-the-board 8-percent budget cuts was to ensure that we don’t take a giant amount from any one department or eradicate,” she said. “Student Life is least affected. Yes, Sun God had $20,000 taken away from it, but at most that would mean just one less tent. Not even.”

She added that she was disappointed that an alternative budget had been drafted without her input.

“This undermines the integrity of A.S. Council, and I’m telling you that as A.S. President,” she said. “It shouldn’t happen and if it continues nobody will need to take us seriously.”

During the budget meeting, the council voted to take $1,000 out of leadership training to be put toward the Office of Student Life.

“We are going to weaken a lot of the branches of the associates students, and we’re only going to be here for concerts and that’s not the purpose of A.S.,” Ben Hassine said. “I love concerts, I love Sun God, but at the same time this is $1,000 out of leadership and development.”

Other changes included a request for an additional $12,000 for the Senior Sendoff Bear Garden, which failed.

“I feel the situation we are in is like ancient Rome, where we are failing and we pour more money into entertainment when there are more serious issues,” Associate Vice President of Local Affairs Matthew Vu said. “We’re allowing students to feel happy so that they have all this event, but $12,000 is a lot of money that could go toward student issues, like our right to education, and yet these things are being deprioritized.”

The council decided to restore the $22,000 taken out of Sun God Festival budget through money from overallocation, restoring the number to $530,000 and — with the contingency — the original $550,000.

Associate Vice President of Concerts and Events Brian Wong argued that since the majority of Sun God costs are security costs – which cannot be changed — the $22,000 would be taken directly from artist fees and would impact the quality of the headlining artist For example, last year’s headliner, Drake, had an artist fee of $75,000, which Wong said the council wouldn’t have been able afford with the cut.

Black Student Union members also came to request funding for their traditional Kwanzaa event. Although Vice President of Finance and Resources Andrew Ang argued that they had breached protocol, the council agreed to fund the $4,500 for the BSU event. Of this, $3,000 will come from administrative supplies, and $1,000 from overallocation.

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