$13.6 million A&S budget passes with little debate

The Student Government (SG) Senate unanimously voted to accept the nearly $13.6 million 2012-13 Activity and Service (A&S) Fee Annual Allocations a more than $700,000 increase from last years budget.

The A&S budget, funded by a $7 flat fee and $11.28-per-credit hour fee billed to all students, was based on enrollment projections from the University that assumed no fee increase, despite the Board of Trustees recommendation to increase the fee by $0.43.

With 31 of the 58 senators present, the Senate floor had few questions or points for discussion during A&S Recommendation Committee (ASRC) Chairman Jeff Gaos 30-minute presentation of the bill that allocated $9,160,410 to student programs and services, $2,681,381 to SG, $1,045,000 to reserve and interim accounts and $708,638 to student organizations.

The power of SG and the Senate is in allocating the budget, said SG Senate President Khalid Hassouneh, a senior majoring in medical technology, to the senators. This is the biggest thing youll vote on. Make sure it counts. If it takes until 2 a.m., it takes until 2 a.m. Take all the time in the world.

But it took less than an hour to pass the budget, which has been in the works since fall.

Some questioned a pay increase for the judicial branchs supreme court justice, whose hours paid per week increased from 15 hours per week at $10.25 per hour to 20 hours per week at the same rate. James Bodden, Election Rules Committee chairman, said he pushed for the increase to attract better candidates to the position. SG Senate chairs also received a pay raise from 10 hours per week to 20 hours per week.

Muhammad Shakir, a junior majoring in political science and a senator from the College of Arts and Science, questioned the parity of the pay increases.

How come senators dont get paid? he asked. If were increasing other people getting paid, why arent senators being paid?

The room resounded with approval.

Hassouneh said while he wasnt against paying senators, it was a battle losing steam.

Student Government at USF is very spoiled, or at least thats what were told, he said. On paper, we look very spoiled, but in reality our perks are not (as much) as other schools. So, they look at us and they say too many of our staff is already paid, and by they I mean administration.

SGs executive branch saw an $11,614 decrease in payroll as a whole, which leaves $198,690 to be allocated within the branch.

The money cut from the executive branchs payroll was moved to a Special Projects account, which was allocated $613,814 to fund the SG marketing department, an SG barbeque and TechSmart, the new printing services facility, among other projects.

SAFE Team saw an increase of $158,176 to their previous $273,956 budget to increase payroll and hire more personnel. The service was also turned from an SG agency, which is directly controlled by SG, into a bureau, which means it will be funded by SG but managed by University Police.

Bulls Radios existing $150,355 budget received a $52,055 increase for new equipment and news services.

They wanted to hire more reporters and more staff, Hassouneh said. Any good radio station has a news department. Now they have this news element, and we looked at it and said its a great opportunity for students to participate.

The 196 student organizations that received A&S funds this year received $413.81 more on average than the 249 student organizations funded last year received. The student organization budget decreased from $752,486 to $708,638, but Hassouneh said all medical-related organizations were grouped under the College of Medicine Student Council, which received $53,000 to distribute amongst the organizations.

Ten organizations that applied for funds did not receive them due to problems in their constitution or failure to adhere to ASRC guidelines and deadlines, Gao said. The Pre-Veterinary Society was granted A&S fee money, but rejected it.

At the end of each year, all money not used from allocations and all untouched reserve funds 5 percent of which are mandated to be kept by law are swept back into SGs account as carry-forward cash. This year, SG carried forward $886,709 and expects to carry forward about $1 million next year.

We like not to use those funds in case the roof blows in, Hassouneh said.

The Senate also passed a bill earlier in the night that made all SG accounts, including auxiliary, special project and USF Foundation accounts, subject to the financial code that goes through the SG Business Office to provide oversight and accountability.

Basically, the process has always been the same, but were formalizing it and putting it in writing, Alyssa Thomas, an SG adviser, said. We want to make sure that process continues.

Hassouneh said the policy gets rid of gray area, and that he was pleased with the overall passing of the budget.

Im really happy about the budget, he said. All in a year with no fee increases, we found a way for better funding thats more efficient and gets out more money. Were moving in the right direction of making sure the biggest bang for the buck is getting back to students. Stuff like Homecoming, (Campus Activity Board, University Lecture Series), USF Day … sadly, we know those are not priorities for the University, so were glad we could step in and fund that.

The budget will now be signed by Hassouneh and student body President Matt Diaz before being sent to USF President Judy Genshaft to be signed into effect.