January 24, 2012

Student Assembly Reduces Size Of Its Own Budget Amid Cuts to Organizations

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After a tight budget forced the Student Assembly  to deny several student organizations’ requests for increased funding, the S.A. cut its own budget by 10.2 percent. The decision will allow the S.A. to alleviate some of the funding shortfall other organizations face for the next year.

“We took a cut because we felt like the money could be spent by other organizations in a better way,” according to S.A. President Natalie Raps ’12.

Funding left over from “existing surpluses within the S.A. budget” will in part be used to increase the Student Activity Fee, a mandatory charge for each student, for 2012 to 2014. The fee, which amounts to approximately $3 million every year, is revised and distributed by the S.A. to large student organizations every two years.

SAFC’s 2012-2014 Allocation

The Student Assembly Finance Commission is allocated approximately $1 million of the activity fee each cycle, which it then redistributes to more than 350 smaller student groups. Although it originally requested $105 to help fund a growing number of organizations, the SAFC received $84.16 for the 2012 to 2014 cycle — a five percent increase from its prior allocation of $80.17, but still significantly less than expected.

“We were only allowed to raise the [student activity fee] by four to six percent due to inflation. … We don’t want to be charging students outrageous prices for SAF,” Raps said. “We gave [the SAFC] as large of an increase as we could while still staying within guidelines.”

Additionally, S.A. appropriations committee members said they felt that the SAFC did not need a more substantial funding increase for this cycle because the SAFC carries a substantial rollover in funds from year to year.

Members of the SAFC could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“When student organizations fail to spend a large chunk of what they are allocated, those unspent funds revert back to the SAFC at the end of the term,” Nicoletti said. “This results in a large rollover from year to year which never gets spent by student organizations, taking away from the original purpose of the money, which is to fund current programming.”

Byline Funding

The S.A. received 32 requests for byline funding in fall 2011. Three of these requests were from first-time applicants. Thirty organizations were granted byline funding for the 2012-2014 cycle.

Not all groups were happy with the results.

Leaders of the Willard Straight Hall Student Union Board, who were denied in their appeal to increase their organization’s byline funding allocation on Oct. 27, said after the S.A. decision that the denial would bring and end to trivia nights an movies on the Slope.

The S.A. came under further fire after not recommending the Cornell Asian Pacific Islander Student Union for byline funding, as organization leaders, appearing before the group at an appeal Nov. 10, said the assembly was dismissing minority groups’ concerns.

Of the three new applicants, only Slope Media Group received approval for byline funding in the fall.

Balancing Act

Despite the disappointment expressed by some groups over their allocations, Nicoletti said the S.A. was able to fund crucial student organizations while being able to control the fee at an acceptable level.

“I think the funding process went very smoothly; it was due to the preparation that the Student Assembly took. I think that every applicant was offered their opportunity to offer their ideas and opinions in open and transparent debate,” he said.

Like Nicoletti, Raps said she felt the byline funding cycle went well, despite the challenges of balancing groups’ requests.

“There were a couple places where we really needed to talk to all students involved. At the end of the day, we made a lot of great compromises,” she said.

Original Author: Sylvia Rusnak