Student Union passes 2012-13 budget after four hour meeting

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Following four hours of discussion, a joint session of Student Union Senate and Treasury approved the general budget for the 2012-13 school year.

Senate voted 14 in favor and 1 against while Treasury voted 10 in favor and 3 against.

This year’s budget, which was drafted by SU Vice President of Finance Ammar Karimjee, amounted to $2,558,000, or 1 percent of every student’s tuition.

Several Treasury representatives raised objections over transparency in the budgeting process, citing the late date at which the budget had been posted online, unclear accounting methods, and wasteful spending. Treasury voted against several sections of the budget, though those votes were only symbolic and did not represent a rejection of the overall budget.

Especially contentious issues during the meeting were school council budgets, campus contributions, SU and student group operating costs, and funding for Engage 360. But while many members at the joint session agreed that there were line items that they disagreed with, a budget that everyone supported entirely would be impossible.

Senior Daniel Bernard was one of the three Treasury representatives who voted against the budget. He emphasized the need to examine the budget more closely and make sure that students are aware of where their student activities fee is going.

“It represents the apathy of the students, that every year we come and make this very similar budget, and we face the same problems. For example, the $12,000 phone bill [for SU-funded landlines]—that’s money that should be going to the students, and every year we tuck it under the carpet and say we’ll do it next year,” Bernard said. “I think we really need to focus on the issues and make sure that the most money possible goes to students.”

Karimjee acknowledged the cost of the landlines at the meeting and said that he would monitor phone usage and look into whether those costs could be reduced.

“I think it’s time that the legislative body actually made a stand. It’s a lot easier at 1:53am to leave and feel good about a lot of things and passing a general budget and then congratulate everyone…when in reality the takeaway from tonight should be, ‘What’s next?’ not ‘We’re done.’” Bernard said.

Other Treasurers objected to funding the Student Sustainability Fund (SSF), which had failed in their appeal for block funding in this past spring election by a couple percentage points. The SSF had appealed for $10,000 in the spring but received $3,000 in the general budget. Still, the debate centered on whether Student Union should fund an initiative that had failed to pass the student body. But Karimjee stood by his decision to fund the SSF.

After the meeting was over, Karimjee expressed relief at getting the general budget approved.

“I’m just really, really excited that it passed. It was a lot of work and it was a lot of fun. I’m glad to be done with it and move forward,” Karimjee said.

SU President Julian Nicks agreed that the vote represented a significant move forward for his administration.

“I think we could say that we brought what the students want, and we brought a lot of ideas that students want to see. It definitely wasn’t the most new, innovative budget but I don’t think that’s what Student Union really needs right now,” Nicks said. “This is just a start of a conversation…and definitely not the finish. Now we’re looking forward to actually getting to the real business of what our jobs are.”

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