A $95,000 accounting error has Metro’s Student Government Assembly reeling as it tries to maintain its goal of advocating for students.
“It’s a big difference, but an easy mistake to make,” SGA Treasurer Emily Hill said. “I don’t think anyone had any malicious intent and no one was negligent. It was just a mistake. The best course of action is to take the information we have now and just move forward.”
When the current SGA administration took office June 2011, they were told their budget had a rollover of $115,000 from the previous administration. This amount was to be added on top of the standard yearly allocation from Metro’s Student Advisory Board and student fees.
The news the SGA only had a $20,000 rollover came as a shock when the assembly convened Feb. 10. The discrepancy was due, in part, to computer error.
The impact will be felt by SGA senators trying to better the campus they represent and student organizations they help support financially.
“As for supporting student [organizations], co-sponsoring their events, anything that involves an allocation of money, we can’t do,” SGA Sen. Jeffery Washington said.
In addition to not being able to financially back student organizations, other services typically offered by the SGA could face drastic cutbacks to keep the student government afloat for the remainder of the semester.
“What we are going to have to do is cut the student [organization] printing program. It’s one of our biggest expenses,” SGA President Jesse Altum said.
Hill said it would take more than cuts to minor expenses to solve the budget problem.
Late 2011, a correction was made to the SGA’s pay after it was found they were not being paid correctly for months with 5 weeks. The increase, approved by the senate before the accounting gaffe was caught, could be the line item most impacted by the budget cuts.
“If we don’t change our own pay, we are going to end up in the red,” Hill said. “We’re paying ourselves too much. I don’t think it’s right to use student fees to pay ourselves exclusively. We need to be using that for students outside of [our] personnel duties.”
In a resolution proposed by Hill, senators’ monthly pay would be reduced by $40, and directors would face an $80 pay cut. The vice president’s pay would decrease by $110, while Altum would have his monthly pay cut by $140.
If the senate approves the pay cuts, personnel expenses should be capped at $60,000 leaving $13,800 in discretionary spending for the remainder of the term.
Altum is committed to paying his administration what they agreed to.
“I think we need to find a solution quickly while still maintaining sanity because right now we are talking about peoples livelihood, people’s pay,” he said. “A pay cut is fair because it [affects the SGA] across the board. But it’s unfair in that we aren’t looking for another solution.”
Concerned the SGA may not be able to pay for personnel for May and June, Altum said the SAB has reserves in place for situations like this, and he would not be afraid to ask for the financial assistance. In the meantime, he plans to take the necessary action to help the SGA be self-sufficient.
“We are going to be transforming from running like a for-profit to running like a non-profit,” Altum said. “We are going to try to not cut programs, we are just going to try to find ways to operate them for less money or run them for free.”
When Altum proposes budget matters to the SAB later this semester, he will show that the SGA has used their entire allocation, which would allow them to ask for more money for their budget next year.
Hill noted this error could end up having a positive effect on future administrations and the student body.
“This year, we will spend our entire budget, and it’s clear we are using those funds to serve students,” Hill said.