SGA depletes reserve budget, stops funding orgs through spring semester

Austin Walker
Staff Writer

The Monroe Park SGA announced last week that they are no longer accepting funding applications for this semester after draining a total budget of $427,000.

As a result, student organizations who have yet to apply for events happening in the next three months are left without the ability to receive money from the school.

SGA Appropriations Committee chair Vivek Patel said this outcome is the result of several factors including inadequate student activity fees, state budget cuts and his reformation of the bylaws allowing the appropriations committee more autonomy throughout the funding allocations process.

By October 2014, the SGA had used all of their original $227,000 budget, which was intended to last all year. Although this hasn’t happened in the last five years, the SGA was prepared for the situation and immediately passed a $200,000 reserve spending bill on Nov. 3.

Previously, the SGA senate would vote on an organization’s funding proposal, then moved to the appropriations committee for further review before finally passing the proposal back to the senate for final approval.

This year, Patel proposed and followed through with changes to the SGA bylaws that allows his committee to strictly handle funding requests.

“That decreased the timeline by about two weeks,” Patel said. “Additionally, I went into my hearing processes and made them more efficient by turning 15 minutes-per-student-org into about half of that; it takes 8 minutes. So I’m seeing twice as many student orgs.”

This shift in funding jurisdiction from the senate to the appropriations committee comes at the cost of the senate now having complete oversight of the committee’s bylaws. Patel did not detail what, if any, changes the senate has implemented.

Students also do not receive their funding on a first-come, first-serve basis anymore. Instead, the appropriations committee operates by a timeline. This means that organizations who submit funding requests months in advance, could be a lower priority than an organization who applied much later, but needs the money sooner.

“That’s actually something that we’re looking to improve upon as well,” Patel said. “It seems to me it would be much more fair if we had it on a first-come, first-serve basis across the board. So this is actually something I’m looking to change in the bylaws now.”

Currently, each VCU student pays a $45 student activity fee that is included with their tuition, the added total of which combines to about $2 million.

This amount is then distributed between the Student Media Center, the SGA Appropriations Committee, the Programming Commission and the Student Activities Advisory. This year, the SGA received an allocation of $646,384.20.

Patel claims that the fee, which was implemented 15 years ago, is no longer adequate for the amount of student organizations who seek funding from the SGA.

“At that time, there were somewhere between 300 and 350 student orgs,” Patel said. “Fifteen years later, if you throw in inflation, the price of good and services goes up, and you also add in that we have another 200 student orgs — we’re about 540 now — but the student activity fee has not changed.”

Patel hopes that there will be a reexamination of the student activities fee that may better provide for all the organizations at VCU that ask for funding through SGA.

Since last year, Patel said the number of funding requests has tripled.

He explained that a possible cause for this drastic increase is a direct result of state budget cuts.

The university announced last year that the state would reduce VCU’s funding by $21 million to help cover a government deficit. As a result, there were student organizations that relied on a portion of this money to operate, and consequently had to apply for money through the SGA instead.

“I stand behind every decision that has been made by the committee so far,” Patel said. “Every dollar that we give to an organization is rightfully spent and I’m more than willing to provide the records that show that.”

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