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SG executive branch budget should not have been signed

Despite a substantial and questionable increase, the Student Government 2009-10 executive branch budget was signed Friday by Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall.

The $318,255.78 budget raised concerns when it was approved by the senate May 19, as it represented a nearly 20-percent increase from last year’s budget. The Student Resource Agency was merged with the executive branch, accounting for a portion of the increase, but $54,892.50 was added to the payroll for pay raises and new positions in the executive branch.

Dean of Students Kevin Banks said he found the necessity of some of the positions
questionable, especially considering the significant cuts experienced by other university
departments this year.

An increase to any department’s budget in this tough economic environment is a cause for concern, especially when the increase is unnecessary. Meningall should have given more weight to these concerns before approving the budget.

Meningall said the budget’s priorities did not match her own. She also questioned the need for new positions but said it was the senate’s job to challenge the executive branch.

However, there is a reason why the vice president of Student Affairs must sign off on the budget. It is her responsibility to reject the budget if she feels it does not match the priorities SG should have. By rubber-stamping the budget, Meningall is removing a necessary level of oversight, which is meant to ensure that SG’s decisions are in the best interest of the student body.

The senate is also to blame for letting the budget reach her desk. To create new positions and approve pay raises for student positions is unaccountably wasteful considering the cutbacks other USF employees have been forced to endure.

Since 2007, USF has cut 595 jobs, according to the St. Petersburg Times, and President Judy Genshaft announced a freeze on administrative raises this year.

With budget cuts all around, USF faculty and other employees face the risk of losing their careers and livelihood, yet students with short-term positions in the executive branch saw the need to give themselves raises and expand their department.

Several levels of SG as well as the USF administration have failed to effectively challenge the budget increase, a neglect that represents a betrayal to the students they
persumably serve.