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ISSUE 117 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/9/2004

Student activities explore budget cut solutions

By Jenna Barke
Copy Editor

Friday, April 9, 2004

The SGA budget, which covers the spending of student government and its student activities, has taken a 10 percent cut as a result of St. Olaf's recent budget crisis.

The spendable student government budget for the 2003-2004 school year was $472,100. This total is divided among various branches of SGA such as SAC, PAC, Volunteer Network and the Pause. The student government senate designates specific percentages in their bylaws, which determine how much money each organization receives. For example, the Pause receives 23 percent of the budget, SAC receives 19 percent, and SGA themselves receive 14 percent.

Dean of Students Greg Kneser met with student government and "showed them every bit of information about the circumstance the college was in." As a result of the meeting, SGA decided to take a 10 percent budget cut. Kneser calls such an action "extraordinary."

SGA Vice-President (and next year's President) Seth Heringer has brainstormed various ways in which student activities branches can reduce spending next year. SGA, by student decision, ultimately decides how the money is budgeted and where it goes.

Two possibilities Heringer suggested include cutting back on leadership activities (such as retreats and conferences) and sponsoring the Movie Bus less frequently. Along with these options, "The Book" (St. Olaf's student planner) will experience decreased publishing.

"There are a lot of students who just don't use The Book, so we want to get them in the hands of people who do [use them]," Heringer said.

Heringer suggested that a possible fee of "a dollar or so" would be charged for the Book next year in order to ensure that only students who utilize the Book receive them.

The SGA budget currently provides for all expenses of student government and its branches of student activities.

"It's possible to cut things," Heringer said, "but its hard to cut things and plan new stuff." New programming that SGA would like to implement for next year may be forced to remain on the sidelines until the decreased budget stabilizes. According to Heringer, SGA will "try to cut things that people will notice the least - the things that are benefitting the fewest people at this point in time."

However, SGA still wants to provide funding for groups such as 5 Guys Theatre, chess club and the campus EMTs.

Heringer hopes that students realize how much is actually available in the SGA budget - and, most notably, understand that fact that "it's the students' money." Heringer also emphasizes the importance of students sharing their input.

"If students call and give feedback - if people let us know what they want to see happen - that helps us a lot," Heringer said. "It's one of the most important factors in the decisions that we make."

Kneser is very optimistic about the ways in which SGA will handle the budget cut. He said he has "a lot of confidence" in the budget decisions that will be made by SGA. "They make good decisions - I've witnessed it," Kneser said.

The budget gap that will result from the 10 percent cut that SGA is taking next year will be affec- ted by both budget cuts and the ways in which SGA will produce more revenue.

One branch of SGA that has already begun to implement these changes is the Pause. Looking ahead to next year's cut, the Pause is now trying to increase the profits it can accrue.

The Lion's Pause co-coordinators, Andrew Billing '04 and Jill Zaspel '04, are optimistic about next year's budget change. The Pause has been finding ways to work with the budget cut, including increasing movie prices, offering DVD rentals and installing a soft-serve ice cream machine.

"The Pause's goal and course of action is increasing profits - not cutting," Zaspel said.

The Pause receives 23 percent of the SGA overall budget (more than any other branch) - about $113,000 in all. The Pause's major expenses in-clude startup funds for the kitchen in the fall along with both Fall and Spring Concerts.

"After we put that huge chunk in at the beginning of the year, the kitchen is pretty self-sufficient," Zaspel said.

With the emphasis on increasing profits, the Pause is finding ways to combat the budget cut. "We're making it work," Zaspel said. "We're being pro-active."

Billing agrees. "We're not sweating this budget crunch as much as the other branches - they don't have the means for making a profit like we do," Billing said. "We're optimistic about next year."

Kneser is proud of the solutions the Pause has found with the cuts. "SGA has done an extraordinary job of managing facilities [i.e. the Pause] and keeping costs under control," Kneser said, adding that he has "a lot of admiration for them."

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