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ISSUE 118 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/24/2004

SGA finds budget surplus

By Emelie Heltsley
News Editor


Friday, September 24, 2004

Despite careful planning and budget cuts at the end of last term, the Student Government Association (SGA) found a surplus of funds in their account totalling at least $100,000.

Last spring, Shannon Bifulk '06, financial officer of SGA, noticed a surplus in the SGA bank account, and estimated it to be between $30,000 and $60,000. Because exact figures were unclear, "we decided to wait until the numbers were more definitive to announce them," she said.

SGA held an announcement until the fiscal year ended on May 31, 2004, when all of the previous years accounts were settled. Once the 2003-2004 years accounts were closed, however, "the amount of remaining money was much larger than we expected," Bifulk said.

The larger-than-normal amount turned out to be in the ballpark of $100,000, not the previously expected $30,000-$60,000.

Last years 10 percent budget cut and the discovery of this "new" money are not related.

"Neither caused the other," said Janine Wetzel 05, SGA vice president. "The surplus, however, will diffuse the impact of the cut for this fiscal year."

SGA is not certain as to where the money came from, but the executive officers know that the surplus was not left over from the 2003-2004 fiscal year.

Wetzel said that last year, SGA spent "almost all of [their] budgeted money. We came within $50 to $200 of our proposed spending."

Bifulk explained how, as a general rule, each student organization spends most if not all of their budgeted money, because funds do not roll over from one year to the next.

"Rather, they are absorbed into the general account," she said.

One possible reason the surplus was missed could be the constant flow of money into and out of the SGA general account, according to Seth Heringer 05, president of SGA.

"Our budget is fluid," Heringer said. "Revenue comes in and out."

SGA does not receive all its money in one lump sum at the beginning of the year. Instead, monthly installments are put into their general account.

Although a similar surplus issue surfaced in 2002, Bifulk stressed that the situation is an anomaly.

"This is not supposed to happen," Bifulk said. "It has happened before, but it is not supposed to be a regular occurrence."

Despite the financial confusion, Heringer reiterated the hard work of last years officers.

"It may appear that we havent done a good job of putting money practices to use," Heringer said. "But we do make a concerted effort to spend all the money we receive. Last year, we did a great job."

Heringer and Wetzel hope that having a financial officer stay on for more than one year will prevent future budget confusions.

Various new policies introduced last year included an appointed financial officer. The person in charge of SGA finances is not simply voted in, but appointed. Heringer mentioned the "continuity" an appointed financial director brings to SGA.

This is the first year an SGA financial officer returned to the position. Previously, all financial officers were in office for one-year terms.

"The previous financial officer did not mention the surplus to Shannon," Wetzel said.

Since finding such a large amount of money is uncommon and unprecedented, there are no rules or bylaws specifically stating where non-budgeted funds should go. This surplus issue, however, will prompt Senate discussion and possibly the creation of bylaws regarding extra monies not in the budget, according to the executive SGA officers.

The main issue remaining is the question of how to spend the "found" money.

"The Student Senate is in charge of all money matters," Heringer said.

The first regular meeting of the newly elected Senate will take place on Sept. 30. Even after the first Senate meeting, officers anticipate plans for the money taking considerable time and thought.

"One hundred thousand dollars is not something to trifle with," Heringer said. "The Senate could take weeks thinking of where this money could go."

For now, SGA executives are figuring out the best way to gauge student opinion.

"Every opinion is still on the table," Wetzel said.

Currently, a forum is scheduled to open on 55057.com, and Senate meetings, which take place weekly at 6:30 p.m. in the David E. Johnson Boardroom, are also open to students.





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