Q&A: Student government director of finance discusses role, club funding

January 24, 2017

Jasmine Nelson

[email protected]

     The Student Government Association allocates a budget comprised of $300,000 from student fees to fund organizations and clubs on campus.

     SGA director of finance Joseph Conrad reviews all funding proposals submitted by student clubs each week.

     If the proposals fit funding guidelines, Conrad presents them at a Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting to be approved and then presents the proposal to be voted on at a Senate meeting.

     Conrad answered the Scribe’s questions about the director of finance position, the funding process and why SGA members are no longer paid.

Q: What qualifies a student to be director of finance? Do you need any kind of accounting experience to be in this role?

A: You have to really, really like clubs. If you are not a fan of all clubs…you can’t do it. This position is all about being an advocate for the clubs and helping them learn.

     It certainly helps, but it’s not required by any means. I’m a triple major and none of those majors have anything to do with accounting.

     It is rather simple accounting and we have all sorts of resources along with it.

     But as for actual experiences, my family owns a company and I’ve done accounting for them throughout my life.

Q: SGA started the semester with a budget of about $118,000, and has spent about $86,000 so far. Is that typical at almost seven months into the fiscal year?

A: Every year is different. Every club and organization is different. Everything always ends up completely different and we are always kind of in the dark about what’s going on.

     In the fall semester, we’ll usually end up spending more than the spring semester because sports clubs will usually get their funding out of the way very early. There have been proposals for the spring semester that we’ve funded already, so it looks as though it was a fall proposal.

Q: What is the Carryforward Fund/How much is in the Carryforward Fund?

A: The Carryforward Fund is the Senate’s budget and where Senate pulls the money for bills.

     It’s separate from the other bits and pieces, and not beholden to the same guidelines as the club budget, so (SGA) can offer more than $3,000 for an event or more than $2,000 for travel.

     Right now sitting in our Carryforward Fund is a little over $63,000.

     We have our budgets and we have increased enrollment. If that increased enrollment is not spent, it goes to the Carryforward Fund. Money that the Senate doesn’t spend, and money that we don’t spend in the other budgets, comes back to us, and is put into that Carryforward Fund.

     The Carryforward Fund is the Senate’s budget. Any student, senator or whoever writes a bill that is sent to Senate and passed by Senate has access to that money.

Q: Is having a Carryforward Fund good?

A: It depends on what you want funding spent on. The larger the Carryforward, the more the Senate can write in bills. The smaller the Carryforward, the more restricted Senate is.

     Senate can also re-allocate that Carryforward back to clubs and organizations. With that said, if it gets too big, we run into financial issues.

     It is not necessarily a bad thing to have, but say we go three years, and it keeps increasing every time from not being spent, that’s sort of a bad thing because it shows we could be doing more to get more money out to the students.

Q: As director of finance, do you think it has helped or hindered the organization by not having the recognition program to pay senators for their time?

A: Speaking as a senator last year, my job was to represent the students and organizations that I talked to. The students by and large, outside of SGA, were not a fan of the recognition program.

     I was the first to give up my salary, and led the charge to get rid of the recognition program due to our budget’s state last year.

     With that said, I still believe I did the right thing and my choices were validated by the students I was representing. However, I will say it is not the greatest thing to not get paid for what you’re doing. What I said last year was that we have an obligation to the students first.

Q: How many budgets have been approved and denied this semester?

A: We have officially had 75 proposals approved and eight denied. Of those eight denied, that’s not to say they haven’t come back with different proposals.

Q: As long as a proposal fits the funding guidelines, there’s no reason it should be denied? What reasons would the Senate deny a proposal?

A: I am not a voting member so I don’t get to determine whether something is considered good use, but there is always that chance that (a senator) says, “yes, this technically does fit our funding guidelines, and there’s nothing wrong with the money side of it, but we shouldn’t be spending student money on it.”

     (Senate has) the authority to vote ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on any proposal. They are not required to give a reason why. Some things have been voted down in the senate.

     Usually if something is voted down in senate, I will try to clarify why, because our process has it that if (a proposal) is voted down in the senate, it goes back to BAC and we try to adjust it to fit what the senate was looking for

Q: What kinds of questions do you hear at a BAC meeting about each proposal?

A: What is the benefit to campus? What can SGA funding do for this? And (what is) the civic, cultural, and educational value?

     Those are the three questions asked of each person. It’s part of the form they fill out now, and I read (the form) aloud during the meetings and ask them if they want to add anything to it because those are the three major points that we want answered for every proposal.

Q: If the BAC has already approved the proposals based on these considerations, why do senators sometimes ask these questions again in the SGA meetings?

A: Senators are by no means required, though they are strongly encouraged, to read the BAC minutes and to look over the proposals before they get there.

     It is a miscarriage of their duties if they don’t, but that is a personal opinion rather than in our documents. That’s why you’ll hear a lot of the same questions asked in Senate that have already been asked in BAC.