SAFE Team budget increases despite unused funds

The same night the Student Government (SG) Senate voted to further distance its relationship with SAFE Team, the SG-funded but University Police (UP)-monitored service that offers students golf cart rides and walking escorts it also voted to pump $158,176 more into SAFE Teams budget.

On April 3, SG passed a bill to make SAFE Team a bureau as opposed to a directly controlled agency, nearly two years after they sought UPs oversight for the service. The same night, they passed the 2012-13 Activity and Services (A&S) Fee Annual Allocations that increased SAFE Teams existing budget from $273,956 to $432,132.

SAFE Team Associate Director Connor Holmes said the increased budget would allow the bureau to expand its services, potentially assisting UP outside of SAFE Teams 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. operations that extend during University holidays as well.

Our current main budget concerns are the size of our workforce and equipment costs, so I imagine that would be a starting point for expansion, he said. For instance, SAFE Team can potentially be used during daytime hours for very specific volunteer situations, such as directing traffic into parking lots during events in order to assist UP with their more basic functions on campus. I think SAFE Teams purpose on campus is expanding and has been since we began our relationship with University Police.

UP spokesman Chris Daniel said UP serves in an advisory role to SAFE Team.

Because of the similarities, SAFE Team is kind of a good fit, he said. They are still a Student Government operation, but oversight comes from UP. Student Government still funds everything and takes care of all the operational needs. We take care of the structure and activities they get involved in and were putting another set of eyes out in the community. We interact on a regular basis and make sure any of their needs or issues are being addressed.

But only $25,000 of their budget consists of their contractual agreement with UP to compensate for resources. The bulk of the increase comes in payroll increases for expanded capacity, said SG Senate President Khalid Hassouneh.

On any given night, Holmes said two dispatchers are on call and overlap between 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

For the 2011-12 fiscal year, SAFE Team was allocated $215,000 in payroll to fund 58 positions, with its director, Scott Nee, earning $14,400 a year. The budget also funded two associate director positions at $10,175, one assistant director position at $6,840.10 dispatcher positions at $8,250 and 44 general field staff positions at $5,652 per year.

As of Wednesday, it had $82,753.83 remaining in payroll reserves.

In total SAFE Team were granted $273,956 for the year, but as of Wednesday had $96,800.17 in total reserves. All reserves are swept back to SGs unallocated funds if not used by June 30.

Hassouneh said the public record invoices The Oracle requested may be a few weeks behind and that SAFE Team may use the remainder of its reserves before the end of the fiscal year. Not all hires were made at the beginning of the last fiscal year, he said, but next year, would be streamlined to ensure that all hires were ready for all agencies by the start of the fiscal year.

During the 2010-11 fiscal year, $60,859.82 of its $289.060.94 budget was left in reserves at the end of the year.

Yet for the 2012-13 fiscal year, SAFE Team was granted $360,597.60 for payroll, funding two new dispatcher positions and four fewer General Field Staff (GFS) positions.

The directors pay rate was also reduced from $10 to $9.75 per hour, but kept the 30 hours per week and 48 weeks per year of compensation. SAFE Team was also granted $32,781.60 in payroll reserves.

Hassouneh said the reserves allow for unanticipated payroll expenses.

Most positions are standardized to receive pay for 43 weeks, he said. But in some extreme situations, especially in agencies and departments, there are some positions that call for the full 52 weeks. So this kind of gives us the opportunity to have a little built in cushion in there, so we can budget without running into a negative cost at the end of the year.

Holmes said only Nee could comment on the specifics of the budget. Nee did not respond to repeated interview requests since April 3.

This year SAFE Team increased the number of walking escorts, saving the five golf carts it owns for longer distances.

For the 2012-13 fiscal year, SAFE Team was allocated $8,100 in funds for fuel, though as of Wednesday, they had spent a total of $3,403.79 on fuel and spent $4,548.65 during the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Under the new budget, they were also allocated $3,000 for updated uniform standards under University Police supervision and more uniforms required for additional future staff. This year they spent $1,874.44 on uniforms, as of Wednesday.

A&S Fee Recommendation Committee (ASRC) Chairman Jeff Gao said in a March 30 with The Oracle that ASRC doesnt pay much attention to previous years allocations when deciding new allocations.

We dont look at what they spent on the past year, he said. Were not going to micromanage that way.

Holmes said the expanded budget should help SAFE Team serve more students.

People dont always realize that our purpose extends beyond that of a fun ride, he said. Our employees have helped the police stop bike thieves and aided in UPs investigations for various criminal incidents around campus. Half of our mission is to patrol the campus for criminal or unsafe activity, and the other half is to give students rides. And I think students appreciate both those aspects of our job.