TCU Daily Skiff Thursday, April 22, 2004
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Cashing In
SGA spends chunk of your university fees
The House of Student Representatives receives $20 for every student enrolled.

By Matt Turner
Staff Reporter

What’s the best way to spend $88,400? That’s what the House of Student Representatives had to decide this year.

Treasurer David Watson says $20 from every student’s school bill each semester goes to the Student Government Association. The total amount SGA receives fluctuates with enrollment and makes up the student body fund.

For the 2003-2004 fiscal year, the total fund is $260,000.

Programming Council receives 55 percent of the student body fund each fiscal year and the House gets 34 percent. The remaining 11 percent is for general SGA expenses. The House budget, which for this fiscal year is $88,400, is divided among the following:

•The permanent improvement fund receives 25 percent, or $22,100, of the House budget to spend on tangible items that will improve the university property long-term.

•The special projects fund gets 13 percent, or $12,000, of the House budget. Funds are distributed at the discretion of the House to benefit the majority of TCU’s populations, according to the House fiscal policies.

•The conference and convention fund gets 7 percent, or $6,200, of the House budget. Funds are used to help organizations pay for trips to conferences.

No more than 50 percent of any of the above funds can be spent in the fall semester unless the House votes to override the rule, according to Finance Committee policy.

Before funds are granted for any bill, the Finance Committee debates the worthiness of the bill and how much should be allocated, Watson said. The House then debates the bill, amends it if necessary and votes. A simple majority is needed for the bill to pass.

“Sometimes bills that come through House earlier get more money,” Watson said. “It is impossible to determine how many bills we will have that need to be funded.”

The House has typically had three or four bills from organizations requesting money in past semesters, Watson said. This semester, 11 bills requesting money were on the House floor.

A Finance Committee guideline states the committee should allocate less money to each organization so it can fund more. Watson said he is considering setting a deadline early in the semester for submitting bills so the committee can compare them and allocate funds fairly.

“Everybody who complains to me wonders why they got a certain amount when another group got more,” Watson said.

House adviser Larry Markley says he supports Watson’s proposal.

The Permanent Improvement Committee had plans to build a patio for $28,000 near the sand volleyball courts using the permanent improvements fund, said Lenny Armijo, committee chairman.

The proposal for the patio was tabled indefinitely because the university wouldn’t help pay for the patio, Watson said.

Watson said the committee spent $1,600 to install wireless Internet access from Sadler Mall to University Drive last semester.

The special projects fund provided $6,300 for a new SuperFrog suit and $4,000 for four members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity to ride across the country for charity.

A bill passed in March prohibits future charitable donations by the House.

The special projects fund also provided $1,700 to send the African Heritage Organization on a service trip to Kenya, but those funds were returned when the trip was canceled because of a travel warning from the U.S. State Department. The African Heritage Organization was going to receive $12,508 from the reserve account before the trip was canceled.

The conference and convention fund provided Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority with $1,041 and Delta Sigma Theta sorority with $2,100 to go to their national conventions.

The remaining special project money was converted to the conference and convention fund late in the semester to provide about $1,300 for Destination Imagination to go to an international competition and $1,250 to send Fellowship of Christian Athletes to its’ regional conference.

The House also gave $200 to DENT, an eating disorder support group on campus, Watson said.

Jonathan Leer, a Foster Hall representative, said he thinks the funds were “used well” and said he was glad the House supported several minority organizations.

Rahwa Neguse, a junior sociology and pre-med major, disagreed.

“It is difficult for minority organizations to get support from the House because it is not diverse and therefore not sympathetic,” said Neguse, a member of the African Heritage Organization.

“There are not enough free thinkers in that room,” Neguse said. “Members are not aware of how powerful their vote is.”

Neguse said it is difficult for the average student to get involved at meetings because they don’t know the rules and procedures.

Thomas Guidry, another Foster Hall representative, said the House spends money unwisely.

“Some people in SGA want to spend the entire budget and, therefore, make decisions that are fiscally unsound,” Guidry said.

Guidry said he is sponsoring a bill that would limit the amount each person could get from the conference and convention fund. The House overspent on the African Heritage Organization trip, Guidry said.

“People shouldn’t use SGA to fund more than 50 percent of their trip,” Guidry said. “They should do additional fund raising on their own.”

An organization can’t receive funds in two consecutive years unless the Finance Committee deems it appropriate, according to the committee guidelines.

Budgeted funds that are not used where allocated can be used to pay a deficit in another part of the budget or put into the general reserve, Watson said. In the future, he said he would like to see each fund roll over for use in the next fiscal year.

Excess funds usually result from a higher enrollment than what was estimated at the time the budget was prepared, Watson said.

Watson said the reserve is about $120,000. Money from the reserve can be used at the discretion of the House, but Watson said they try to save it for special cases.

“It is a safeguard if we go over budget,” Watson said.

Watson said no reserve funds were spent this semester.

The House had more substantial bills this semester than in the past when it has spent less than what was budgeted, Markley said.

“The House is conceptually looking at the reserve as money that needs to be used rather than letting it sit there,” Markley said. “They didn’t really broadcast the reserve in the past.”

The reserve is not allowed to go below $20,000, Markley said.

Money is also allocated to House committees for expenses, retreats, awards, projects and programs.

The House also funds buses to the airport for Thanksgiving holiday, community service projects such as LEAPS — campus-wide community service day — “College Student for a Day,” several campus leadership awards, legal advice for students and club sports.
The $13,000 given to club sports every year is distributed by TCU Recreational Sports, but Watson said he will propose changes that will require club sports to ask the House directly for money from the special projects and conference and convention funds instead like other organizations.

The annual budget is proposed by the treasurer to the House late in the spring semester and must be approved by a majority vote.

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