In examining the budget process, Senate Treasurer junior Shelly Bhanot was conscious of the inability to plan for events almost a year in advance and said that Finance Committee has encouraged clubs to come forward with additional funds requests once they are sure they will be able to get speakers for future terms.
“We made less cuts in the fall term budgets … but for things like spring term of next year, how do you know how much you’re going to need? So that’s why we made a lot of the cuts we did,” Bhanot said.
Despite likely having a larger fund for budgets next year and an increased number of students on campus, Bhanot said she felt it was fiscally irresponsible to budget without knowing for certain how much money Senate would have next fall.
“Until they [additional students] come to this campus, there’s no guarantee we’re going to get the money. We went with a very conservative number instead of assuming we were going to have everything,” Bhanot said.
It is likely that Student Senate’s discretionary fund will be around $50,000 next year, compared to $30,000 this year, Bhanot said, making it easier to grant additional funds requests.
Student Senate also took on the additional burden of $56,000 in stipends and wages for students working for media organizations such as The Knox Student and 90.7 WVKC. Doing this freed up money in Dean of Students Debbie Southern’s budget for areas such as the Human Rights Center, which had a total budget of $100 this past year.
“When we cut $300 from a $500 ice cream social request, it went to places that needed it,” Bhanot said. “We were able to help pay for the stipends this year because of how much we cut, and Debbie now has a very comfortable OSD budget, which is going to help the campus.”
Junior Marie Anderson, treasurer of Knox Advocates for Recycling and Environmental Support, was initially surprised when KARES’ typical budget of $3,000 to $3,500 was reduced to $1,400. Given the club’s level of activity and the institutional push for sustainability, Anderson had hoped the club would receive “more support,” she said.
After speaking with Bhanot and Assistant Director of Campus Life Kathleen Drake, however, Anderson learned about the other financial burdens Senate had assumed and that Senate felt confident about being able to grant additional funds requests for KARES.
“It sounds like they’re not concerned at all about being able to allocate those funds, so once we come in and know who our speaker is and what all of our events are, they should have no problem,” Anderson said.
To explain Senate’s situation to clubs, Bhanot sent out a detailed email with final budgets, which explained why cuts were made to things like spring term events and food requests.
“You’re more likely to go to an event when there’s free food. We get it,” Bhanot said. “But when a club is asking for more money to put into the food than the event itself for every single event … then what’s the point of the club?”
Senior and outgoing president of Gaming Information Network David Gentry entered the budget process apprehensively after encountering several stumbling blocks last year. After club members were unable to attend last year’s budget meetings, GIN was denied a budget, even after turning in their forms on time. They were able to successfully appeal their budget during fall term 2012. This year, they received a budget of $2,110.
“Overall, it’s been a pretty good experience,” Gentry said. “I haven’t had problems getting money for events. The cuts were frustrating, but we were still able to hold events.”
Some clubs who received cuts copy and pasted their budgets from this past year. Others requested money to hold the same events over and over. The most common problem, however, was not doing research into pricing, Bhanot said.
“When [a club] wants a pack of 100 nails and they’re asking for $50 for it, what are we supposed to do? We know that 100 nails is like $2 at Home Depot,” Bhanot said.
Despite laying out the reasons for cuts in her emails and offering to meet with club leadership to further explain things, Bhanot acknowledged that the draft process, during which the Finance Committee made mostly cosmetic changes to budgets, could have been clearer. Still, Bhanot also emphasized that she did not want to cut events outright during the draft stage, instead hoping to encourage clubs to think more creatively.
“The budget process could be more user-friendly,” Gentry said. “They have to make rules and guidelines; otherwise, people would game the system. But it’s difficult for new clubs to break into the budget scene.”