No $$: Finance Board left low on funds
by Jess Hoogendoorn
Clubs and organizations are at a loss when it comes to spontaneous funding this spring.
The Lawrenceville Student Government Association (SGA) Finance Board began the year with more than $150,000 and was down to $21,000 by November. SGA then asked for funds, approximately $30,000, back that were originally allocated for the turf field, according to a proposal written by SGA President Brian Pawelko. The $30,000 was granted to the board.
Recently, the board had to turn students away because the balance had dropped to less than $2,000 in February. The spontaneous fund is made up of a percentage of the $125 Student Activity Fee (SAF) that students pay each semester.
This has left some student organizations stranded. The television studio is one of the organizations scrambling for money. Four Rider University Network programs were finalists in the National Broadcasting Society’s Media Competition and the students were invited to the 67th Annual Convention in New York City where the awards will be announced. However, the students may not be able to attend because they do not have enough funding.
“We are just hoping that somehow we’ll get there, even if we have to pay out of our own pocket,” said junior Alex Corini, who worked on one of the nominated programs.
The studio originally asked for about $7,000 for the four-day conference, but was told that Finance Board was not accepting any more proposals until mid-March.
“We are going for an academic conference,” Corini said. “We are representing Rider. A small school is going up against top broadcasting schools. That is why we were so upset. You’d think that representing Rider on a national level would be guaranteed money.”
The status of the trip is still up in the air. Students are discussing whether they will have to pay out of pocket or if they will be able to get money from elsewhere, such as the Department of Communication and Journalism.
However, the big question on the minds of the students from the TV studio is how the Finance Board went through so much money.
“Currently, it is a first-come, first-served basis, so unfortunately, if your conference is toward the latter half of the year, you have less of a chance of getting money,” Pawelko said.
According to Pawelko, a large sum of money was appropriated early in the year because there were a lot of fall events and organizations took money out early.
As the economy declined, people across the country “were taking their money out of the bank, and as a result the banks started to collapse because they had no money to lend,” Pawelko said. “Kind of the same scenario happened here. People started panicking that there’s not going to be enough money left in the Student Activities Fee and they wanted to have their event now.”
In the past, the spontaneous fund ran out of money at the end of March to mid-April. This year, in an effort to soften the blow, another $10,000 will be added to the fund in the hope of filling demands until the end of March. This money will come from about 150 Student Activity Fees that were not accounted for when the budget was made last year as well as money that clubs asked for but did not use, according to Pawelko.
“Ten thousand dollars is not going to be enough to fund everyone, but we’re hoping that it will get us closer to where we normally get in past years until we run out,” he said.
Clubs asking for spontaneous funding must appear before the Finance Board and make a proposal. If the proposals are legitimate and there are sufficient funds, the board is almost obligated to grant the club the money under the current process, said Pawelko.
However, according to SGA Treasurer Alex D’Amico, this year the Finance Board has been going over proposals with “a finer-toothed comb.”
“We started taking a closer look to make sure we were using SAF money for the purpose of the SAF, which is programming for education, diversity, student activities and different things like that,” he said.
The Finance Board also keeps track of how organizations spend their money and takes this into account when assigning budgets for the next year, said D’Amico.
Pawelko said he is open to taking a closer look at the process and coming up with a possible solution. He said there are two courses of action: cut spending or raise SAFs.
“I think there are some opportunities to cut spending, for us to live within our means, but I think the majority of the programs are good quality programs and obviously not everyone is going to agree on where the money should go,” he said.
If the SAF were to be raised, it would most likely be by approximately $25 per semester, according to D’Amico. The SAF has been a fixed fee for the past five years.
“In that time we went from having lots of money left over five years ago to now being on a very tight budget,” he said.
However, Rider already has a high SAF compared to other schools such as Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh whose SAFs are between $25 and $58, according to Pawelko.
“We don’t want to raise the only fee we have control of when it’s already substantially higher than other universities,” he said. “And I think it would really send a bad message to the student body.”
Instead, Pawelko proposed sitting down with members of SGA and examining the situation and coming up with solutions. He suggested prioritizing the clubs when it came to funds, because he said there are organizations currently getting shut out of money that shouldn’t be. However, he said he thinks the Finance Board was spending responsibly over the course of the academic year.
Pawelko also encouraged students to voice their opinions.
“We’re all ears if students feel that their money isn’t being spent correctly,” Pawelko said.
D’Amico, however, is confident in the current process.
“I don’t really think it’s a negative that we have run out of money, because we had a budget and we spent it on good programming for the school,” he said. “Everything that we spent on I’m very happy with and it really just has to do with an influx of quality organizations on campus and their enthusiasm for programming.”
D’Amico said he wouldn’t change anything, except possibly raise the SAF in future years so that more money can be allocated to the nearly 100 clubs and organizations on campus.