Old budgets, new budgets in, but little change for SG

After SG leaders sifted through reams of old budget documents, met with the heads of student groups for hours and convened a meeting with senators to reallocate about $40,000 in student money Thursday, very little changed in the bottom-line of SG’s budget.

But for a few campus groups funded by the money, their financial outlook shifted substantially.

At a special session held in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center ballroom, SG senators approved 11 new drafts of budget bills passed between May and October deemed invalid by SG’s Supreme Court. The 11 bills passed closely resembled the earlier bills, save three.

In the allocations of those three bills, the American Institute of Architecture received $3,466, up from $1,538, and Engineers Without Borders received $1,074, up from $404, but funding for the Classics Society funding dropped to $1,133 from $2,573 because of technicalities in SG bylaws.

The chain of events leading to the reallocation of the funds began when members of Engineers Without Borders contacted SG with complaints that they were allocated the same amount of money for nine months this year as for three months last year.

“Really, I was just looking for an explanation, but almost all of the (budget) board had changed and no one could tell me why,” said Jamie Trahan, president of Engineers Without Borders.

When Senate President Nathan Davison went to review the minutes of the budget committee meeting where funding for Engineers Without Borders was discussed, he found there were none.

His discovery led to a ruling from the Supreme Court determining that budget bills approved without documented minutes were invalid, since they violated SG bylaws aimed at creating transparency in the budgeting process.

To bring funds distributed by SG in line with the ruling, Davison and budget chair Juan Carlos Soltero had to track down and redraft all the budget bills without accompanying minutes, many of which were passed under the leadership of former budget chair Matthew Coppens.

“Under the previous budget chair, there weren’t any records,” Davison said. “We wanted to make sure that all students that come before SG are actually represented and make sure that there was no negligence (in the funding) of those organizations.”

The only group to lose more than $150 in the reallocation process was the Classics Society. Soltero said the society’s formal request for funding, submitted when Coppens was budget chair, violated some of the caps placed on funding for groups and came in after the deadline for budget submissions.

In these cases, SG bylaws require a 25 percent reduction in the group’s request as a penalty, Soltero said.

“The cuts we made were based on (budget) guidelines,” Soltero said. “It’s a very black and white situation.”

“I wish I could give all the money in the world to the organizations that request it, but the fact is my hands are tied by bylaws and statutes,” he said, adding that any student groups with questions about how to properly submit their budget request to speak with him or SG Comptroller Thomas King.