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$318,225.78

Student Government’s senate has approved a 2009-10 fiscal-year budget with what appears to be a increase of $61,024.76 for the executive branch. Branch members, however, say the increase is not what it seems.

The 2008-09 executive branch requested $259,201.27 at the start of the fiscal year. The 2009-10 senate-approved budget totals $318,225.78.

The large increase stems from the executive branch’s payroll, which totals $225,771 — an increase of $90,733.50 from last year’s initial appropriations.

The Student Resource Agency (SRA) was merged with the executive branch this year, which accounts for a portion of the payroll increase.

SRA, which offered various services to students, has become Student Life and Traditions (SLT) of the executive branch.

The eight SLT positions make up $35,841 of the 2009-10 payroll, which leaves a $54,892.50 increase.

Student Body Vice President Bruno Portigliatti said that the 2008-09 end-of-the-year budget might have exceeded what was requested at the beginning of the fiscal year.

“The executive branch requested money in the beginning of the year and then throughout the year they kept coming back and requesting more money,” he said. “We’re requesting the money in the beginning. We’re not going to be requesting more money throughout the whole year. We know what we’re going to need and that’s it.”

The remaining portion of the payroll increase stems from new positions and budgeted pay raises, which Portigliatti, whose projected 2009-10 income is $19,734, said might not be used. Student Body President Juan Soltero is projected to make the same amount.

“This is what were budgeting for in case there is a raise or something like that.” Portigliatti said. “This is what was approved, but we’re not necessarily paying this to all the employees. So that’s why we have a sort of flexible spending here. We have some leeway on how much money we’re going to be giving to employees.”

Assistant Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Khalid Hassouneh said there are five new positions in the executive branch: deputy chief financial officer, executive press secretary, deputy press secretary, deputy attorney general and webmaster.

“We have eight additional positions for SRA, which are now under executive branch rather than before, when they were their own agency,” he said. “We have five new positions that were created that used to exist two years ago. Last year’s administration thought they weren’t appropriate, but this year’s administration thinks (they are).”

Dean of Students Kevin Banks said the necessity of some positions is questionable.

“We’ve asked administrative departments to take significant cuts this year,” he said. “And, so, eyebrows should be raised when they see a budget that’s submitted that increases — particularly in areas where I don’t want to see us duplicate efforts. I want us to operate efficiently. I would hope that the senate asks these questions.”

Soltero said the budgeted payroll funds could later be allocated to other areas such as projects and initiatives.

The 2009-10 budget for projects, such as the Mr. and Ms. USF pageant, orientation and homecoming, has been cut by $25,650 this year. SG projects spending of $17,500 on projects. SG has also decreased its operating expenses, which include promotional items and supplies, by $11,400, while increasing its travel appropriations by $2,000.

“I would hope that the senate was able to justify this question,” Banks said in reference to newly appointed positions. “Is it fair? You know (SG) is going to say they provide a service to the student body — so I would hope that somewhere along the line there is accountability.”

Director of SG Gary Manka, who advises the executive branch, said he questioned the payroll.

“Those questions have been brought to the students’ attention,” he said. “I know I’ve personally brought those questions to the table: ‘Are these positions needed? What about these pay rates?’ — stuff like that. We’ve brought up bad fiscal times everywhere else. Everybody’s taking cuts everywhere.”

Shane Johnson, SG chief financial officer said the payroll expenses could be reallocated as soon as halfway through the year if the executive branch chooses.

“In order to use funds from payroll — if we have additional funds halfway through the year — we have to make a transfer and it has to be approved through the senate committee on appropriations,” he said.

Soltero said the executive branch could request more money from the senate if needed, but they won’t be doing that.

Though the senate passed the budget May 26, it still awaits approval from Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall. She has until Friday morning to approve or veto the new budget.