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SG reworks budgets to cover spending

In a bit of creative accounting that reconciled student government’s books with its bylaws, senators voted Tuesday to transfer $120,000 in student fees into an interim spending account nearly drained by the salaries of a sizable executive branch and the costs of unforeseen SG projects.

The decision to make the $120,000 transfer into the interim account – which funds student organizations, the executive branch’s payroll and the costs of projects that pop up during the year – drew criticism from some senators, who said freeing up such a large sum would make it easier for SG to overspend. If approved by USF President Judy Genshaft, the $120,000 transfer would nearly quadruple the $30,900 now available in the account.

“Once you get it in there, it’s kind of like carrying cash around in your wallet – you’re more likely to spend it,”Senate Pro-Tempore Nicole Randazzo said.

Senators who argued for the large transfer conceded that a smaller sum, somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000, was more financially prudent and would likely keep the interim account in the black through the spring, but said $120,000 was needed to bring SG’s accounting in line with SG statutes.

“I know it’s a big number, but that’s pretty much the only option we have to correct this issue,” said Juan Carlos Soltero, budget committee chairman.

Soltero said he was considering introducing legislation that would limit payouts from the account to $40,000 for the spring. The remaining money would then be swept back into SG’s general pool of funds at the end of the semester.

Of the $250,000 put into the account to cover interim spending in the fall and spring semesters, about $220,000 has already been spent – just over $180,000 for an executive branch payroll twice the size it was last year, and about $40,000 for 13 student groups, an SG retreat, a new database for student organizations and extra buses for home football games.

A narrow reading of SG statutes requires 40 percent of funds placed in the account to be set aside for Spring. To balance the funds in the account with this requirement, a $120,000 transfer was needed for the spring semester, Soltero said.

After the transfer was approved, some senators questioned the hastiness of the decision. On the eve of what many students regard as the unofficial start to the Thanksgiving holiday, 26 of the 30 senators present voted for the transfer after about 30 minutes of deliberation.

David Armstrong, SG’s advisor and business manager, said he worried that the size of the transfer and the logic behind it might raise flags for administrators already edgy about the spending habits of SG.

“Instead of figuring out how much do we really need, they’ve decided to move this (decision) to justify some arbitrary rule that everyone agrees has already been broken,” Armstrong said after the meeting. “At the very least, the move will be questioned (by administrators).”