USG debates retroactive funding precedent

Stephanie Sponzo, McMahon senator, addresses the Senate. CTFastrack employees attended the Undergraduate Student Government senate on Wednesday, Feb. 17 to talk about potential expansion into UConn later in 2016. The Senate also discussed emergency funding for many groups. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Senators in the Undergraduate Student Government moved from debating the merits of legislative funding for improperly filled out disbursement requests to requests for emergency retroactive funding at Senate Wednesday.

Of the five proposed funding requests, two of them dealt with requests for money already spent by each organization. After arguing for about an hour on each of the requests, pausing multiple times to recess in order to introduce amendments to the funding legislation, the Senate voted to fund both groups.

UConn Ballroom asked for almost $3,000 to pay coaches contracted at the beginning of the semester without finalizing its budget with the funding board. The UConn Climbing Team asked for funding to reimburse payment for trips to competitions and for those later this semester.

The ballroom group did not submit funding requests in time for the disbursement deadlines. After already signing a contract to pay their coaches for the semester, they approached USG for emergency funding to meet the conditions of those contracts.

Bennett Cognato, CLAS senator and Daily Campus contributor, wrote the legislation. He said the funding request should have been in time for the deadline but since the funds would also be used to pay the coaches for future work, it is not entirely retroactive. He did not see the timing of the funding as an issue.

“There’s nothing in the policies we have that says you can’t ask for legislative funding for missing a deadline,” he said.

External affairs chairman Daniel Byrd, proposed an amendment to the bill to remove payment for the coach’s first four months of work, leaving in the payment for the remainder of the semester, eliminating the retroactive funding aspect. Byrd said he would rather not pass the legislation at all but said removing what he saw as retroactive funding would be a good compromise.

“This amendment is fixing one of two problems, the one I think is the bigger deal,” Byrd said. “We’re stopping groups from coming to Senate and saying we’ve started using something without USG approval.”

After tabling the amendment and final voting on the legislation until the arrival of funding board chairman Stephen Porcello, the amendment was voted down and the legislation was passed by a small majority.

Dan Byrd, external affairs chairman, addresses the Senate on Feb. 17, 206. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The Climbing Team asked for about $3,000 to reimburse club members for travel expenses for a tournament that occurred in January and for upcoming competitions this semester. Again, the debate raged over whether USG should fund expenses the group has already payed for without USG approval.

Byrd said the group found the costs of the Jan. 30 competition on Jan. 7, after the funding deadline but still within the timeframe of applying for legislative funding before the trip. Authors of the bill said club members were unsure of the funding policy at the time, it being their first year receiving money from USG.

According to Porcello, groups that do not know the exact information are expected to use a measure of “common sense,” researching past costs for the event and contacting the funding board for more information if needed.

“Sure, our training could be a bit better,” Porcello said, “but I like it when groups reach out to me. There’s a little give and take.”

Stephanie Sponzo, McMahon senator, said the issue lies with communication between USG and student organizations. She said groups should not have to contact the funding board for more information but should have all the information they need clearly and immediately available to them.

The funding was eventually approved for the full amount after much debate and discussion.

Senators spoke at length about precedent and the responsibilities of the Senate to approve legislative requests but no plans were made to discuss the issue or to come up with a decisive set of regulations for applying and funding requests.

“We’re here for the purpose of overriding the funding board policy when we deem it to be legitimate,” said senator Michael Lanza. “This time we’ve deemed it legitimate under extenuating circumstances.


Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at nicholas.shigo@uconn.edu.