The Student Assembly met last night to finalize the budget for the next academic year, and heard appeals on behalf of two student groups who requested more funding than was allocated to them by the Financial Council.
The budget finalizing process took a mere 45 minutes, in comparison to the budget meeting two years ago that spanned 11 hours.
Kate Flatley, SA vice president for academic affairs, spoke at the meeting, and said she was disappointed that more groups were not represented. According to Flatley, the Eating Awareness Subcommittee had sent out an email asking for a representative to speak on its behalf for a budget increase.
“I just want to say I’m really disappointed, and I hope that people who are going to be here next year will stand up and give more groups a voice,” Flatley said. “For too long it has been a habit to stand up for a group only if you know a member personally. I really wish that someone had reached out to the Eating Awareness Subcommittee since they were willing to reach out to us.”
The two groups whose appeals did find representation were Binghamton Television and Explorchestra.
BTV appealed its budget, which was slashed from $5,000 to $250, a decrease of 95 percent — one of the largest cuts this year.
In a vote of 21 to 9, the $1,000 budget for BTV was approved.
“Based on the flaws of past administrations of BTV, I can understand where the SA is coming from,” said Michael Zagreda, BTV’s technology intern and a sophomore majoring in computer science. “I understand that the SA is under budget constraints, but I am hopeful that we can convince them that BTV is something the campus needs.”
In an untraditional twist, FinCo member Nick Valiando argued in favor of increasing BTV’s budget.
“There’s an immense amount of history in that organization, and I wanted to give them that shot,” said Valiando, a senior majoring in political science. “They need another year. They need at least one last chance. If we don’t give it to them, we’ll be destroying a group with so much history.”
Explorchestra, a student-run orchestra, appealed its allocated budget of $300. According to its written appeal, Explorchestra requested a budget of $600 to purchase new musical equipment.
“It’s $300 that goes directly to something tangible — new instruments for the student body,” said Anthony Galli, an SA representative, arguing for the increase.
Ultimately, the SA voted 19 to 8 to increase Explorchestra’s budget to $600.
The SA decreased the portion of money withdrawn from its reserve account for the 2012-13 year, according to Aaron Ricks, SA treasurer and a junior majoring in political science, because the amount released in previous years was unsustainable in the long term. In contrast to the $688,894 that was allocated for student groups in this year’s budget, next year’s budget allocates a lesser $657,695.
This meant many student groups’ budgets saw decreases, including the Binghamton University Pre-Medical Association, Harpur Jazz, Binghamton Animal Alliance, Pre-Veterinary Alliance and the Indian Christian Fellowship.
Sherry Liao, Habitat for Humanity E-Board member and a junior majoring in biochemistry, saw her group’s budget cut from $4,000 to $2,500.
“It is understandable that the SA lowered our annual budget for the 2012-13 school year, and while it is unfortunate that we will no longer have the same flexibility in terms of event planning as we did this past semester, I am optimistic that with our collective creativity and initiative, we will manage,” Liao said.
Many groups lost all their funding for the 2012-13 academic year, including Project Companion, Undergrad Chem Club, Breakdance Club, Italian Club, Collectible Card Gaming Group, Campus Pre-School, Neuroscience Association and the Dickinson Community Players.
It was a tough year for engineers as well, as the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Engineers all saw their budgets cut to $0.
Groups that saw their budgets increase, on the other hand, include Relay for Life, the Binghamton Crosbys, Rhythm Method, Ballroom Dance, Han Perspective, Haitian Student Union, Live Action Role Play, Binghamton Media Group and the College Republicans.
The SA’s stipends for E-Board members also increased to $44,450 from $43,250, a change that reflects a larger allowance for the vice president for finance’s summer stipend and an increase to the VPF’s assistants’ stipends.
“Over the summer, the Student Association still has to operate. The Financial Council decided that the job requirements for the VPF merited an increase to the summer stipend for the VPF,” Ricks said. “In addition, the Financial Council recognized the need for more assistants in the VPF office to help with paperwork and audits.”
In an attempt to make the budgeting process smoother and more effective, this year saw the option of automatic level funding. This status was offered to student groups operating according to the SA’s expectations, and it protected their budgets from being decreased by SA representatives at yesterday’s assembly meeting.
Ricks said he credits the smoother budgeting process to these changes.
“I am extremely pleased with the new budget procedures that we enacted this year,” Ricks said. “I hope that the next SA treasurer continues to make improvements to make the process simpler and even more objective in the future.”