SG Senate allocates $18 million for annual budget bill

With no major budget cuts or debates, the Senate passed the annual budget bill with a 32-0 vote.

In an untraditional setting, with no major controversies or budget cuts, the Senate passed its $18 million Activity and Service (A&S) Fee budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The Senate held a special session on Zoom video conference to present and vote on the annual budget bill, which resulted in a 32-0 vote Thursday night.

Several A&S-funded departments received an increase in their total allocation to implement new programs and events for students. 

To date, this is one of the largest allocations that the Activity and Service Fee Recommendation Committee (ASRC) has presented — $18,767,876.  

In the 2018-19 fiscal year, the A&S fee budget was $17,378,224. Last year, it decreased to $17,018,667.

The funding increase was a change from last year’s overall 2 percent cut to A&S-funded departments and student organizations because of the overallocation of $1.5 million.

The extra $1,749,209 in this year’s account raised eyebrows among some senators. Sen. Samantha Whyte questioned how this was possible. 

ASRC Chair Travis McCloskey said the reason behind the increase was due to the higher number of enrolled students as well as money that was rolled over from years prior.

USF admitted 5,703 First Time in College (FTIC) students last year, making it the largest freshman class. Now, there are over 51,060 students attending USF.

McCloskey said recalculating the formula also helped increase the overall allocation. 

“Essentially, we recalculated what our formula is of how much money we’ll have a rollover,” McCloskey said. “In the past, it’s been extremely conservative. So it’s kind of like a huge safety net that we don’t overallocate. 

“We kind of just saw that the net was too big, and it was hindering some of our projects.”

When it comes to the unallocated cash reserve —  the account used for departments and student organizations to request additional funding — there was a significant increase compared to previous years.

“Last year was $750,000 of just unallocated cash, this year is $1.5 million,” Senate President Salud Martinez said during the meeting.

For student programs and services, departments like the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, Center for Student Involvement and Recreation and Wellness received an increased allocation for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Only one department received a reduction in its annual budget — the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). But it wasn’t because of a budget cut. 

OMA was allocated $537,283, compared to $541,428 last year. However, that was the total amount requested by OMA, according to McCloskey.

McCloskey said ASRC cannot allocate more funds than what was requested by the department or organization.

The Judicial Branch, under SG Operations, received $91,337 for the 2020-2021 academic year, compared to last year’s budget of $67,331.

Sen. Suyog Thengale asked why this was the case. 

McCloskey said the reason behind the increase is to fund bigger events and programming for the upcoming year.

For instance, McCloskey said the Judicial Branch held an event this year bringing together different law schools across the country for students who are considering applying upon graduation. 

Despite having used zero funds for the event, McCloskey said the increase in funding for the Judicial Branch will help organize bigger events throughout the semester.

Of the 600 student organizations on campus, about 250 received A&S funding for the upcoming year. 

The student organizations that received zero funding was because they did not apply by the appropriate deadline, failed to comply with SG constitutional requirements for funding or improper filling out of the A&S eligibility form.

However, there’s still an option for those student organizations that did not receive funding.

With the start of the 2020-2021 fiscal year on July 1, student organizations that were zero funded can apply for the interim budget. They can potentially be awarded funding, though a penalty will be imposed on their accounts.

“[The penalty] is to incentivize organizations to precisely read the instructions and ask all the questions ahead of time,” McCloskey said. “That doesn’t mean they can’t get the funding, it just starts July 1.”

Given the unconventional Senate meeting, senators were able to review and pass the annual budget bill with no conflicts in about 40 minutes. 

“That was a lot quicker than I thought it was gonna go,” Martinez joked.

Now, it will be up to Student Body President Britney Deas to sign or veto the bill. If Deas approves it, the bill will be enacted with the signature of USF President Steven Currall.