How does SGA spend your money?

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How does SGA spend your money?

UTEP SGA holds a meeting to discuss issues around the UTEP campus and it’s community.

UTEP SGA holds a meeting to discuss issues around the UTEP campus and it’s community.

Andres Martinez

UTEP SGA holds a meeting to discuss issues around the UTEP campus and it’s community.

Andres Martinez

Andres Martinez

UTEP SGA holds a meeting to discuss issues around the UTEP campus and it’s community.

Maria Esquinca, Managing Editor

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A framed picture of UTEP President Diana Natalicio, rows of carefully placed Post-it notes that resemble a calendar and stacks of discarded family board games are a few items you’ll find inside the office of the Student Government Association president.

“Our purpose is to serve as the official voice of the students,” said SGA president Roberto Dominguez, senior business administration major, inside his office. “To improve campus, to make sure you have the best possible experience while you’re a college student.”

A big part of that means giving students money.

In the spring of 2015, a total of $35,685 was given to students and organizations for travel and non-travel events related to UTEP, representing the passage of 94 bills requesting funds, according to SGA minutes. 

“They also give a sizable amount of funding to students for the purpose of education endeavors like going to conferences and presenting papers,” said Catie McCorry-Andalis, associate vice president of student affairs, dean of students and SGA advisor.

Limitations exist on the amount of funds students and organizations can receive.

Individuals that are traveling cannot receive more than $350, or one third of their total  travel budget. Travel appropriations for organizations cannot exceed $1,500 or more than one third of their travel budget . Non-travel requests by campus organizations cannot exceed $2,500.

An investigation into last year’s SGA budget revealed that on average SGA covered 17 percent of a students’ or organizations’ total appropriation requests.

“Someone that applies, unfortunately, will never get the maximum amount that they’re asking for, but they will get as much as we can go ahead and give them,” said Hector Soltero, SGA executive assistant and senior organizational and corporate communication major.

Brandon Thomas, senior health promotions major, said his fraternity Phi Betta Sigma, submitted a request to go to a conference and was given $600 for of a trip that cost $1,500.

The investigation also reveals that SGA funds covered a range from as low as 2 percent for some bills and as high as 50 percent for others.

“I noticed sometimes they will fund things that don’t necessarily need a lot of funding,” Thomas said. “I felt that with organizations that needed it, they kind of overlooked it.”

In order to provide more funds to students, Dominguez asked for an increase in the SGA’s budget.

“Student Government hadn’t had increase in funds for as long as I can remember, so this was the first year we went to the university and they listened to us,” Dominguez said. “They said students first, so this year we’re going to be able to give an addition $12,000 back to the students.”

The $12,000 was originally supposed to be allocated to the fall 2015 appropriations budget.

However, Dominguez said a past president did not ask for an overall increase in the SGA budget when the student population increased from 21,000 to 23,000, which also increased the senate from 21 to 23 members. Meaning, there was a shortage in the budget caused by the increased number of senators.

Therefore, the $12,000 increase in the overall SGA budget was used to increase the wages budget from $47,764 in 2014 to $53,520 in 2015. 

“What it means is that we’re finally paying the two senators we didn’t account for,” Dominguez said. “But as well, what we went ahead and did, is give back to the students.”

To do this, the fall 2015 appropriations budget was increased to $80,000.

In addition, operating costs were cut by $9,032 in order to increase the special projects budget, which allocates funds for student events and projects proposed by senators, such as implementing tutoring centers or town hall meetings, by $4,000.

A look at the Numbers

[aesop_document type=”pdf” src=”https://www.theprospectordaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/SGA-Sheet1.pdf” caption=”Money allotted, was the amount of funds given by SGA to a student or organization. Itemization 1, 2 and 3, was the amount of money a student or organization was requesting. The two bills highlighted in red died before they were approved by the senate, according to SGA minutes. “]

 

 

 

An inspection of the budget according to SGA’s minutes and the SGA’s accounting book, which keeps track of everything SGA does, including wages, events and projects, reveals contrasting figures.

Dominguez said the fall 2014 senate appropriations budget was $75,000.

“We gave $75,000 last year to individual students and student organizations last year,” he said.  “And that helped them go to different conferences and seminars, present their research, as well as many events here on campus.”

However, according to SGA accounting book, the fall 2014 budget was $79,000.

Further discrepancies are revealed in the following semester. SGA minutes for the following semester place the spring 2015 budget at $29,132, while the SGA accounting book at $36,859.55.

Soltero said this inconsistency might be attributed to glitches and problems with Peoplesoft, the data and management system that maintains the university’s business processes systems.

“All departments are struggling because they thought they had a certain amount of money, but then they didn’t have that money,” Soltero said. “All of our numbers, in a sense, are a little bit weird because of that.”

Dominguez said that another reason that explains the mismatch could be because sometimes organizations or students don’t use their funds, and those funds get returned to the appropriations budget.

That would mean the total amount of unused funds would be $7,727.55 (The difference between $29,132 and $36,859.55.) However, the SGA accounting book, only accounts for $6,638, of unused funds.

Dominguez added, that because a bill cannot be changed once it’s passed, it’s difficult to keep track of how many funds are added back into the appropriations budget. 

Maggie Ortega, administrative assistant for SGA who is in charge of bookkeeping for the accounting book, said the spring 2015 appropriations budget delineated by the minutes was decided in the fall 2014 semester, and is separate from the one in the accounting book.

“What is assured is that the appropriations money will not overspend their money ever, and they won’t say ‘this money wasn’t spent, let’s put it back in.’ No, they respect the money until it’s clear that the session is over,” Dominguez said.

Maria Esquinca may be reached at [email protected]

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