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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Senate Muddles Over Budget Planning

    Dear Editor,

    This Senate meeting was dominated by the debate over the 2007-08 USG Budget, which allocates over 2.6 million dollars that is requisitioned by the Student Activity Fee that almost every student pays each semester.This money is allocated to the hundreds of clubs and organizations on campus, as well as to USG agencies such as the Student Activities Board, and to USG initiatives such as the PASS tutoring programs and the subsidized LIRR tickets that create long lines in the ticket office every week.

    The allocations, at least in theory, are based on the long and considered deliberations of the Senate Budget Committee which is chaired by the USG Treasurer, and those deliberations include information obtained from ‘Budget Packets’ that each club or organization seeking funding must fill out, as well as a budget hearing with several members of the Budget committee.Considering the number of clubs and organizations seeking funding, the various requests for budget increase on a limited budget, and the other duties that Senators must do, the work of the Budget Committee is truly arduous.

    That said, the Senate meeting was an absolute embarrassment to the Budget Committee and to the Senate as a whole and the Senate’s performance last night greatly undermined the professional reputation that it has enjoyed in recent weeks.

    The initial debate on the budget was enlightening and promising.Some eyebrows were raised over the $0 funding of certain groups as well as major cuts in a few others, but the Budget committee, led by Senator Hirst, expertly and effectively explained the criteria used to allocate funding and it seemed as if a majority of Senators were satisfied with the explanations given.During the debate, however, a budget committee member discovered a blank cell in the Excel sheet containing the budget, meaning that a $43,000 dollar allocation was inadvertently left out and now the overall budget was $43,000 in deficit.

    At this point the Senate looked like it did not know what it was doing.Some Senators suggested an across-the-board cut of 2-5%, just enough to fund the missing $43,000, while others suggested that the Budget Committee reconvene and go over the budget line by line, cutting the budget where possible to make up for the shortfall.The debate was complicated by several factors: the fact that the shortfall increased from $43,000 to over $100,000 when another error was discovered, as well as the need for the Senate to approve the budget at that meeting in order to avoid a deadline which would force the budget decision to be shifted to the Executive Council.

    The situation continued to fall apart as no one option seemed to be devoid of serious flaws, prompting one Senator to jokingly announce something to the effect of: ‘How about we just put the money in the Treasurer’s office and just have all the clubs make a mad dash and grab what they can.’

    The hilarity grew when a Senator discovered a constitutional provision that allowed the Budget decision to be postponed, if permission was granted from Dr. Baigent, an administrative official.After being given Dr. Baigent’s home phone number through a member of the gallery (who searched it online), Senator O’Connor called and asked for an extension, and after hushing the Senate for a few seconds, he announced that Dr. Baigent approved a one-week extension of the Budget decision.

    And so, with one more week to make a decision, the Senate promptly returned the budget to the Budget Committee, with instructions that it return with a balanced proposal next week, and it appeared as if widespread relief was on every Senator’s face.

    The question remains, what will the Budget Committee do now?Cuts from the current allocations will have to be made to make up for the $100,000, but who will suffer?More importantly, I believe that the lack of professionalism expressed last night will add insult to injury to the various clubs receiving budget cuts, who will be outraged at the Senate’s behavior.

    Despite the fact that the Senate Budget Committee may have legitimate reasons and months of deliberation to back up its legitimate findings, I believe that the last-minute display of incompetence will truly hurt the authority of that committee and its decisions.This is most unfortunate, because the committee, which at times would meet until after midnight to get its extensive work done, deserved to have a crowning achievement to end its awesome task.Unfortunately, in the USG there are few happy endings.

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