By Erica Quinones
The Student Government Association announced the approval of new club budget guidelines in a Sept. 30 email.
The new guidelines include seven articles: the SGA Student Activities fee, the semester budget process, discretionary funding guidelines, funding for new clubs and special interest groups, auditing, reallocating funds, and capital purchases.
According to SGA Financial Controller and junior Liz Hay, the updated guidelines are more of an organizational and specificity change as opposed to a substantial departure from previous practices.
She described the guidelines as a comprehensive document which can allow future treasurers and financial controllers to understand SGA’s budgeting rules.
“These [guidelines] can be a better foundation for any changes or additions that need to happen, because there were many deficiencies with the last document, which I think anyone who tries to do the budget process on the club side would probably agree,” Hay said.
While the new guidelines were passed, Hay said that clubs should not stress over the changes. They were passed this semester because COVID-19 prevented their passing in the Senate last spring.
“We just wanted to get this in place for two years down the line when everything is back to normal and we aren’t even here,” Hay said. “But for right now, do not stress too much about guidelines changes…The goal right now is to work with clubs in a very flexible setting to make flexible options happen.”
Article I of the guidelines, entitled “The SGA Student Activities Fee,” is a new addition.
The article explains that SGA receives funding for clubs through the student activities fee, of which they receive 33%. Thus, in Section 2, the guidelines explain that “it is in the spirit of the SGA Allocation of the Student Activities Fee for the SGA to approve funding only for events, activities, and initiatives discernable organized by students and for students.”
This clause stemmed from the Budget Committee’s discussions regarding the importance of student initiative in SGA-funded club events, as some club proposals were not led or suggested by students.
Section 2 better institutionalized this philosophy for clubs’ reference, according to Hay.
The remainder of the Article includes general information about what club budgeting is, what requirements must be met for an event to be funded, and that the Financial Controller and Budget Committee can “interpret and supersede any item of these guidelines at their discretion when acting in the best interest of the SGA and student body.”
Article II outlines the club budgetary process for both treasurers and future Financial Controllers, according to Hay.
It is by far the largest Article of the guidelines, spanning five pages and consisting of four sections with 15 separate items.
The article lays out an overview of the budget process, the requirements which must be met to receive funding, specific funding guidelines for all organizations, and further funding guidelines for special clubs — such as cultural and religious groups.
Article II, section 2 sees one change for current and future clubs. Regarding requirements for funding, section 2 subsection A says that to receive funding, clubs must have a constitution that includes “some form of club-specific diversity statement or affirmation of the campus diversity statement.”
According to SGA Parliamentarian and junior Kat DeSantis, some clubs, such as Caring for Kids, have taken the initiative in adding a diversity statement to their constitution.
For clubs that have not amended their constitution, SGA Vice President and junior Emilee Daniel said, “[they] will need to have a diversity statement in their constitution in order to receive the SGA funds.”
Amending a club’s constitution is different for each group and dependent on what their own constitution’s bylaws allow. However, submitting the amended constitution to SGA is easy.
All they must do is submit their amended constitution to DeSantis by the time they apply for a budget.
“As of right now, [clubs] just need to give me their constitution before they apply for a budget, and we’re golden,” DeSantis said.
After constitutions are shared with DeSantis, they are stored in a OneDrive archive. As this is also true for previous club constitutions, if a club does not have access to an amendable copy of their constitution, they can contact DeSantis and request a copy from the OneDrive archive.
Besides the constitutional change, the section lays out clear guidelines for common requests such as club shirts and interest meetings.
While some areas are well-detailed, Hay said there are areas, such as philanthropy, that are sparse.
“Because we wanted to have this document in place, it will always be a work-in-progress. There are always places we will still be looking,” Hay said.
Article III addresses guidelines for requesting discretionary funding, which are budget allocations for unanticipated expenses or additional events.
One major separation between discretionary funding and the usual budget process is that at least one club representative must be present at the Senate meeting where the motion to allocate funds is presented.
Article IV regards funding for new clubs, reactivated clubs, and SIGs.
Its major tenants include that SIGs may receive upwards of $250 for an interest meeting and one discretionary request. New clubs are also eligible to make one discretionary request in the semester in which they are approved, but they cannot apply for a budget for that semester.
Article V explains the auditing process.
The article lays out clubs’ responsibilities to keep track of their budget and to spend funds as allocated. According to the guidelines, at the end of the fall semester and fiscal year, the Business Office audits all SGA accounts.
If a club is deemed to be improperly spending funds or misguiding the SGA, they risk consequences such as having their accounts frozen, having their ability to submit a budget suspended, or undergoing an Honor Board review.
Article VI addresses the reallocation of funds, which is another new section.
This section outlines the steps clubs can undertake to divert funding from one project to another if plans change or funds are left over. It is a simple process, requiring only a formal email to the Financial Controller. If the request exceeds $500 or is a reallocation of the entire budget, they may be asked to come before the Budget Committee.
The final point, Article VII, regards fixed assets and capital purchases.
Such items are those that can both be used daily for a long period of time and cost at least $2000, such as gaming computers or furniture.
Similar to other budgetary requests, capital purchases can be submitted in the semester budget or through discretionary requests. Representatives of the club will then be asked to meet with the Budget Committee. However, where these items differ from other requests is that if the Budget Committee’s recommendation is passed by a majority vote in the Senate, funding for the capital purchase comes from the SGA’s reserves rather than the semester operating budget.
While these new guidelines are in place, as aforementioned, they apply mostly to future budget processes outside of the 2020-2021 academic year. According to Hay, the plan is to not have a formal budget process this fall. Rather, to keep the rolling budget of the semester, she will conduct a review of spending at the end of the semester and contact clubs at the beginning of the spring semester with instructions for continued rolling budget requests.
“Sometimes the budget process can be a little daunting and a little frustrating on the club side, so I always tell anyone who has questions or comments or concerns to reach out to me at email@example.com. I also encourage everyone…whenever we do go back to normal, to please read the guidelines and come to the educational events. We do try to provide the resources for successful club budgeting,” Hay said.