SGA fails to reach agreement on budget
Counter-budget sparks heated exchange between Senate and President
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013 01:09
Awkward, personal and heated debate broke out at the Student Government Association meeting Tuesday as concern arose over its proposed budget.
Student Body President Ramiro Jaime, Jr., placed his budget up for Senate vote only to be met with a counter-budget, neither of which were approved. He also said because of the lack of action during the meeting, SGA won’t function until a budget is officially passed.
Jaime’s budget consisted of three key changes from FY 2013 in spending. Included were a $4,200 (11 percent) decrease in overall Officer Stipends, a $6,665 (148 percent) increase in Executive Student Assistant wages to cover more ESAs and Ramiro’s new Personal Executive Assistant position, and a $535 (four percent) increase in the Senate Discretionary Fund.
Although the overall Officer Stipends decreased, the President and Vice President both had proposed raises, while other administrative positions received relatively greater pay decreases. Compared to FY 2013, Jaime’s budget calls for a stipend change of a $75 ($925 to $1,000) increase to the President, a $50 increase to the Vice President ($750 to $800), a $300 decrease from the Secretary ($600 to $300), a $150 decrease from the treasurer ($450 to $300), and $50 increased to the chief of staff ($250 to $300).
Jaime claimed his increase to ESA wages was due to the lack of hours the SGA office was open to students.
“The reason for [the ESA wages increase] is that last year we only had one ESA,” Jaime said. “The issue with that was, if he had class, the office was closed. If the students needed to come by, they had no one to speak to.”
Jaime explained that with the new ESA budget, SGA plans on having the office open and accessible to students from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The increase also included an administrative assistant to the president.
According to Jobs for Kats, the new position titled Personal Assistant to the Student Body President will “serve at the pleasure of the student body president, schedule appointments, attend some meetings, answer and return phone calls/emails, [and] take notes.”
Senator and Caucus Chair for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Steven Perry presented a counter-budget to Jaime’s budget moments after Jamie called for a vote.
The amendment calls for major changes from Jaime’s original proposal including $3,000 less in overall Officer Stipend, $4,165 less in ESA wages, $2,500 more to Bearkat All Paws In, and $500 less for the Student Advisory Board. Other changes include a $250 increase for University Affairs and a $415 increase for Incidental Expenses and Office Supplies.
Jaime’s budget is a 17.1 percent increase in SGA’s internal spending while Perry’s budget is a 10.5 percent decrease in internal spending. Records obtained by the Houstonian show SGA internal expenditures increased 278 percent from 2005-2011, or more than $13,000 in 2005-2006 to more than $49,600 in 2011-2012.
Even though SGA’s total budget increased by 56.5 percent ($46,000 to $72,000) in the six-year span, student-oriented spending decreased by 38 percent and senate discretionary funds went down by 19 percent.
Among the major changes in Perry’s budget was $5,000 to be set aside for a scholarship fund that the Student Service Fee Committee had previously denied. Perry claimed that the board only denied SGA initially due to the lack of logistics for the scholarship.
“What we were told is that they weren’t going to give us an extra $5,000 because they haven’t seen the way it worked before,” Perry said. “They wanted to see a pilot program. So that’s what I want to do.”
Jaime rebuked what Perry said about the committee’s decision.
“First of all, the SGA scholarship fund – we cannot do it,” Jaime said. “The school has said no. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. So that’s $5,000 there you can count out of the budget… It’s not that we’re mean and we don’t want to give it away; the university said no.”
Vice President Kolby Flowers served on the committee last year and confirmed that they said the program lacked structure, but was a possible initiative for SGA to pursue.
“To say the school won't allow the fund is incorrect,” Flowers said. “The faculty members on the (committee) have expressed concern over how SGA has handled its money in the past and wants to see, not just hear, a structured proposal.”
Perry said that he feels SGA’s role is to serve the students and spend their money wisely.
“Scholarships are a great way to both ensure SGA's fiscal responsibility, and directly benefit our fellow Bearkats,” Perry said. “Student government has an obligation to ensure that each dime we spend is used as effectively as possible, and will benefit the student body as much as possible.”