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A&S fees allocation process explained

The Student Government Senate passed the Activity and Service Fee (A&S) allocation for the 2009-2010 fiscal year by acclimation last week.

Every student pays an A&S fee. Undergraduate students pay  $8.79 per credit hour and a flat fee of $7 every academic term, according to USF regulations.

For 2009-2010, the total amount of fees allocated was $9.7 million, compared to last year’s $10.9 million.

Ralph Reid, the Activity and Service Fee Recommendation Committee (ARSC) chairman, said SG was making sure it was being fiscally responsible this year.

“We are trying basically to get into a system that doesn’t use any money that may or may not be there,” he said.

At the beginning of the fiscal year, the Senate drafted a proviso determining A&S funding caps and limitations, Soltero said.

When reviewing the budget, all Senate members must maintain “viewpoint neutrality,” meaning they cannot base their decisions on what organizations have done in the past.

“For student organizations, we do not consider the length of time the organization has been on campus or how much funding they received in the past,” Reid said. “There is a twofold reason for that. One, we don’t want a bias against the organization if they are new … And the second (reason is) if an organization got way more than they should have or way less, or something on that line.”

If an ASRC or Senate member is also a member of one of the organizations being
funded, he or she must abstain from voting, Soltero said.

However, Soltero said the current A&S fees allocation process is a “very arbitrary system.”

“It’s not necessarily very well regulated — it could be better,” he said. “But it’s not just tossing money around either, as some people have stated.”

Soltero said that during his administration as student body president, he wants to create a more “concise and effective” process for allocating A&S fee funds.

During the first two weeks of his administration, Soltero plans to create a task force to review the budget process and ASRC allocation process, review checks and balances to create better accountability, and work toward reducing the amount of time it takes to get a purchase order, he said.

“We recognize as Student Government that we have flaws in the system, especially with the budget,” Soltero said. “There are a lot of different things that we need to definitely revise and look into.”

Soltero said that while the creation of the budget has been an ongoing process since last fall, only about 10 minutes were spent reviewing it on the Senate floor before it was passed.

Senators were continually informed of updates on the budget throughout the year, through reports given at Senate meetings and messages sent via listserv, Soltero said.

However, he said that whether a senator decides to actually ask questions and give feedback on the budget “is their prerogative.”

Soltero said some senators are very involved and give feedback on the budget. Unfortunately, he said, others do not.

The budget must be reviewed and approved by student body president Greg Morgan, Student Affairs Vice President Jennifer Meningall and USF President Judy Genshaft.