Following weeks of debate and back-and-forth decisions, USF is expected to move forward with the 2018-19 proposed budget for the same fiscal year just before the July 1 deadline. However, the original proposed budget will not be advancing in its entirety, as one major and controversial line-item has already been removed — the endowment.
Vice President of Student Affairs and Student Success Paul Dosal told The Oracle in an email that the decision is expected to be made final by the end of the week, complete with the signature of System President Judy Genshaft.
According to student body president Moneer Kheireddine, he and Genshaft are scheduled to meet on Thursday for one final conversation about the budget before it’s approval.
The endowment, an off-campus reserve account, may no longer be included on the 2018-19 fiscal budget, however, the idea of it has not been killed completely.
Senate President Sarah Lucker said that though she may agree with the general concept of the endowment, she does think that the manner in which the idea was presented can be improved. She said that by pulling unspent dollars on a yearly basis and adding those to an endowment, instead of trying to outright pull $1.375 million, could be something to consider moving forward to make up the investment account.
Kheireddine echoed the points of Lucker, but added that he hopes if the idea of the endowment were to persist, that members of Student Government (SG) would work closely with administration to ensure that the process is done so with legalities in mind.
Disagreements between administration and members of SG on the legality of the proposed endowment have persisted throughout the process.
Dosal pointed to USF Investment Policy 6.028, which states that all dollars from the student-paid Activity and Service (A&S) Fee must be held in university accounts, as the statute broken by the proposed endowment.
The endowment was not the only line-tem of controversy on the original budget proposal, however. Another proposition was that student affairs departments, such as Campus Recreation and the Center for Student Involvement, will face cuts to their annual budgets.
This line-item currently remains a part of the proposal.
However, Lucker said the departments are not going to be left without options.
According to Lucker, an account of $350,000 from the unallocated cash reserve will be in place for departments to be able to request additional funding. Lucker also said the aid is not anticipated to be capped-off at that amount.
“That $350,000 is just the initial amount in the account,” Lucker said. “If we end up seeing services or employment getting cut, they can increase that amount and we can allocate more money into that account for them to get services from. It is just a starting point to see how many of them actually need to draw from that to continue the same amount of services and employment.”
Lucker also said that in the future, she has two main focuses on ways to improve the budget proposal process — the presentation and timeline.
She said she hoped to find a way to present the budget in a manner that the average student will be able to understand. Afterall, by her own admittance, a budgetary approval process can be a challenging concept to understand. Lucker said she hopes that in presenting the budget proposal in a more clear way, it will better develop the lines of communication between SG and their constituents.
Lucker also said that a main focus of improvement moving forward will be the timeline. Having different entities such as SG, administration and Student Business Services involved in a single process often means that it may take a longer amount of time. Lucker said that by submitting next year’s fiscal plan earlier, all parties involved will have more time for analysis and meeting deadlines will not be as much of an issue.
As far as the process that was taken and the decisions made, Kheireddine said he is confident in the resolution that was reached.
“We did the best in a worst case scenario,” Kheireddine said. “There were a lot of potential outcomes to the situation that may not have been the best outcome for our students or almost anyone on campus. But, we came to a compromise and agreement that allows us to put our students first, continues allowing for our departments to successfully impact our students and allows for us as a Student Government entity to remain the sole allocators of the A&S Fee.”
All in all, Kheireddine said his focus moving forward will be to continue supporting the best interests of the student body, especially through challenging situations.
“Our goal is to always ensure that we are representing our students well and doing our jobs as designated to us by Florida state law,” Kheireddine said. “If you base (the decision) off of that, in terms of my perception, I think this is a victory, especially for our students.”