Student Council considers 2017-18 budget

Representatives debate funding for water bottle distribution program in Athletic Affairs Committee budget

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Michael Horth, a third-year Commerce student and Student Council's chief financial officer, introduces the budget at the podium.

Thomas Roades | Cavalier Daily

Student Council representatives debated their proposed 2017-18 annual budget during an extended legislative session Tuesday night. Following over an hour of consideration, representatives voted to table the budget until next week’s meeting for a final vote to approve.  

Michael Horth, a third-year Commerce student and Student Council’s chief financial officer, introduced the budget and gave a brief overview of the items before David Birkenthal, a fourth-year College student and chair of the Representative Body, opened the floor for comments, motions and questions.

The budget included the total expenses for each of the 10 Presidential Cabinet Committees, such as Academic Affairs, Diversity Engagement and Safety and Wellness. It also showed expenses for Marketing and Outreach, the Administrative Committees, as well as the Executive Board. 

The Presidential Cabinet expenses totaled approximately $26,000, while the Executive Board budgeted for over $46,000 and the Administrative Committees’ expenses totaled only about $5,000. The entire budget added to $78,419. 

Each line item in the budget included information on how it will be funded — through the Student Activity Fee, or simply from Student Council funds. 

“Our non-SAF funds are from the Student Council bank account,” Horth said. “We have fundraisers throughout the year for this.”

Over $60,000, or almost 80 percent, of proposed spending was funded through the SAF, with the remainder coming from Student Council’s own funds. 

The budget also included a comparison between the proposed budget and the previous year’s approved budget. The proposed budget would increase spending by over $8,600, exclusively from increased SAF spending — it actually reduces non-SAF spending by $34. 

The budget also included more detailed breakdowns of each committee’s planned initiatives and the funding they’d requested for those initiatives. These figures drew the representatives’ attention for much of the session. 

The Athletic Affairs budget received significant scrutiny from various members of Student Council — particularly spending on club sports, which accounts for $3,850 in expenditures. 

“Club sports have always been one of the biggest groups requesting money,” Horth said in his presentation. 

During the period open for representatives’ comments, motions and questions, several representatives criticized that spending. 

Lukas Pietrzak, a third-year College student and representative, specifically criticized a water bottle distribution program in which the Athletic Affairs Committee would help provide water for particularly hot sports games — a line item for $3,400 from the SAF. He called it a spending rut Student Council needed to escape.

The program requires Student Council to help provide water at sports games with especially high temperatures — 90 degrees or above. 

Ian Ware, a third-year College student and representative, seconded the criticisms, saying varsity sports programs have plenty of money to carry this out without Student Council support, and SAF money shouldn’t be spent for it. 

Ellie Brasacchio, a second-year College student and chair of the Internal Affairs Committee, proposed a motion to end the program. 

“Motion to amend the water bottle distribution sustainability from $3,400 to $0,” she said. “If we keep funding this, I feel like it’s never going to change, so we might as well cut it now.”

Liam Wolf, a fourth-year Engineering student and Chief of Cabinet, urged representatives not to cut the item immediately, but to wait until the spring budget. 

“It might be wiser to do this in the spring budget session, since they’re already planning on Student Council support,” he said. “It could be a problem.”

Eddie Lin, a third-year College student and representative, also spoke up in favor of preserving the program, saying it is a good use of SAF funding. 

“I think it’s a good use of money since we are actually directly helping out the student body,” he said. 

Sarah Kenny, a fourth-year College student and Student Council president, also cautioned against cutting the program. 

“Completely severing a commitment we’ve already made is in bad taste here,” she said.

In the end, the motion did not pass — about five representatives voted to cut the program, but many more voted to preserve it. 

Following the period for representatives’ comments and amendments, the body voted to table the budget bill until next week’s session and the debate resulted in some small changes to be made before the bill was finalized. 

Representatives will reconvene Tuesday, Oct. 17, to vote on the final 2017-18 budget.  

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