New legislation introduced at the Undergraduate Student Government caucus Wednesday may further simplify the funding application process if adopted by the Senate.
Funding board chairman Stephen Porcello presented the amendments to the funding policy, which would require groups funded by USG to submit an informal “informational budget” at the end of each semester for the following one.
“We are trying to make the budget non-binding,” Porcello said. “We are still going to have a budget but groups won’t be limited by it.”
In the past, groups would have to specifically designate how they would use their allocated funds. Porcello said the new system would allow the groups to be more flexible with how they use the money given to them, while still allowing USG to accurately estimate a budget for the semester.
Groups would have to submit a statement saying how much they intend in the semester before the funding is needed. In the statement, they would also have to say what they would use the money for.
If the request is substantially more than what they had budgeted in previous years, they would be “temporarily ineligible for funding.” Comptroller-elect Rishita Jani said she would question groups with a 20 percent or greater increase or groups that did not adequately explain what the funding would be used for.
Groups that do not satisfactorily submit an informational funding request will have to meet with the comptroller to explain their budget. Concerns were raised as to whether this would be an official meeting, meaning greater transparency would need to apply to the meeting’s minutes and notes.
Jani and Porcello said there was no need for such rigors in the process.
“If a group needs funding and doesn’t submit the budget they will not get funded,” Porcello said. “If they run through their budget with the comptroller, then they’re back in.”
He compared the informational budget to a runner in baseball; either they have submitted the budget and are “safe” or have not and are “out.”
Jani said the groups would not be scrutinized by their initial proposal and there is no real decision to be made.
Senators also raised concerns that groups would intentionally over-budget because of the non-binding nature of the informational budget.
Porcello said groups are more likely to ask for more money than needed now since they must go through legislative funding to receive more money under the current system. “Smart” groups generally over-budget for the semester anyway, he said.
“This would open up a group to the full $12,000 without having a binding budget,” Porcello said.
Student organizations rarely spend all the money they request from USG. If they had spent the money allocated to them, USG would have paid out about $1.3 million last semester, which comptroller Parth Rana said USG did not have in semester revenue, and would have made up with reserves.
Requests would still be validated by funding board after informational budgets are submitted and any items on the budget not in line with funding board policies will not receive money.
“We’re really removing a lot of restrictions from groups, which I think is a good thing,” Porcello said. “[Senators] won’t have to debate as much legislative funding in Senate.”
Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.