In their last meeting of the fall semester, the Undergraduate Student Government Senate voted on a group of proposed Tier II funding policy changes that increased the funding caps on travel costs and registration fees as well as two pathways for funding.
The goal of these new policies is to increase the funding potential for Tier II organizations — clubs and organizations that are funded by USG — so that students have to spend less out of pocket, according to Comptroller Fabio Saccomanno.
The changes to the funding policies we passed in the fall are an important step in the right direction in terms of optimizing the funding system,” Speaker of the Senate Josh Crow said. “The ability of the Comptroller to work with the Funding Staff to grant variances will go a long way in allowing more student groups to benefit from our funding.”
The two added funding avenues are in the form of a comptroller’s appeal, which is a form of second-chance funding should a request be denied, and a variance.
The caps that were bumped include: Registration fees being funded up to 100%, they were previously 90 to 95%, up to $600 per person for round trip flights from $300 and up to 1,000 miles from 500 miles for gas.
“During the last Senate, in my budget calculations, I realized that our overflow increased by a couple thousand dollars during the 2019 Fall semester,” Saccomanno said. “So, I would consider it an improvement because during the Spring  the overflow increased by at least $100,000. During the fall we didn’t increase by nearly as much, we almost broke even. Possibly, with calculations including the end of December we may have reduced the overflow for once. That was my goal.”
As Saccomanno stated above, increasing the funding caps will at least maintain or even help reduce the USG budget surplus.
A Tier II organization can request a comptroller’s appeal when their funding request is denied for being in violation of the funding policies but receiving funding for their request is “vital to the realization of their mission,” according to the new changes. This policy allows for funding up to 50% of the requested amount.
The variance policy enacted is a limited version of the original policy proposed at the two town halls hosted by Fabio Saccomanno and the Funding Student Staff last semester.
Before the vote, it was coupled with moving back the funding request deadline from the current six weeks to eight weeks prior to when the funding was needed. In order to keep the deadline where it is, at six weeks, variance can now only be granted when a Tier II advances in a competition. So, for example, when a debate team advances from the quarter-finals to the semi-finals they can request a variance in order to fund that trip even if it is past the six week deadline.
“That kind of took us by surprise, but that’s what was passed by the Senate and we think that is a really fair compromise at the end of the day,” Saccomanno said. “They wanted to keep the six-week deadline, so essentially we are in support of that because the amount of variances we anticipated receiving went down significantly.”
During the Dec. 4 Senate meeting, USG President Priyanka Thakkar made an argument against the passage of the original variances policy, which allowed requests for a broader range of circumstances, because she was worried it would place too much stress on the funding student staff, according to the meeting minutes.
“As the past Comptroller, I know how hard it was for students to plan six weeks in advance and two months would greatly hurt Tier II organizations,” Thakkar said. “As USG, our priority should be to support Tier II groups no matter what and be able to understand that our process for funding is not easy. Adding additional steps or time would not be conducive to their productivity or success.”
As a result, the Senate, at Senator Kevin Perrone’s suggestion, rewrote the policy and made it as it is now. The altered variance policy passed 25-0, with five abstentions.
“Excluding variances for deadline related policies assists in working towards our goal of funding as many Tier II expenditures as possible while taking into consideration the burden that this policy change will have on our ability to distribute and process these requests in a timely manner,” Perrone said on the compromise. “It was a true compromise and is one that will ultimately benefit Tier II organizations in the long run.”
His sentiments were echoed by both the Funding Student Staff Supervisor Erin McConnell and Senator Luis Toscano.
“To have this procedure explicitly delineated in the funding policies allows for all Tier II organizations to have the same chance to receive funding even if there is an extenuating circumstance,” McConnell said. “I think this is a really great step toward optimizing how USG uses the funds allocated to Tier II funding.”
The Senator Luis Toscano also agreed.
“I think that the changes we made were a long-needed improvement to our Tier II funding. These improvements will make it so more groups will be given more money which is ultimately the best for the students,” Toscano said.
On top of the changes in amount funded, they also changed around the wording of some of the policies, which can be found here.
The changes went into effect on Dec. 30, 2019 and haven’t been going decisively well nor poorly as of yet, according to Saccomanno. The forms for a comptroller’s appeal are available on the USG website and Saccomanno and McConnell are working on a standardized form for variance requests as well.
Another piece of note, USG will not be pursuing a student fee increase for the 2020-2021 year, Saccomanno confirmed. The student fee will remain at $45 through next year.