Student Senate Budget Cut by $20,000

This semester, Student Senate’s Student Association of Covenant College fund (SACC)—allocated to 54 school sponsored clubs and organizations around campus—was cut by a considerable $19,700.78.  The budget cut is attributed to a drop in the Fall admission rate and a postponed payment to Jostens Co. for the 2014-2015 Tartan.  The deficit was a surprise to Student Senate treasurer Simon Ocailap, but he and other student organization leaders are learning how to work with the funds allotted them.

Student Senate funds for this semester added up to $145,664.91: $54,475.74 short of the $200,140.65 total requested by all student organizations, $19,700.78 short of the $165,365.69 amount received in Spring 2015.     

“First of all, I’d like to say we are blessed.  We have $145,000 to just decide what to do with.  That’s a lot of money,” says Ocailap.  “That being said, I think we need to work closer with the admissions office in order to understand better what our recruitment is going to be, so we can understand beforehand what kind of revenue we will have coming in which will add on the lump sum we already have accumulated in the fund…that enables us, then, to talk to club leaders and say, ‘Hey, this is where we are at.  This is what we are budgeting.’”  

SACC revenue stems from the $96 that is rolled into the $445 Student Fee paid by each student per semester.  According to Dan Wykoff, the CFO and VP of Covenant’s Finance and Operations, the Student Fee actually “went up about 10 to 20 bucks overall this year.”

 While four more incoming students enrolled this semester than expected and Fall-Spring retention rates are higher than usual, Student Senate’s budget is still feeling the effects of a drop in admissions this fall.  According to Director of Admissions Scott Schindler, Covenant was 14 students short of a 310 student goal.  This drop also translates to fewer students that stay through the spring.

Wykoff doesn’t think that the drop in last semester’s admissions will be a reoccurring issue.  

“I don’t think that’s a trend,” he says, “I think it’s a one-time dip.  Every institution sees that happen from time to time.”

He attributes the dip to decreased Spring-Fall retention rates last year and “a transition of leadership in Admissions” before Schindler became the Director of Admissions this past fall.

At the All-Student Senate meeting, Feb. 3, Senate members discussed how to bridge the gap between Admissions and Student Senate and have more foresight on revenue shifts.  A formative plan has not yet been developed, but Student Body Vice President Elizabeth Coats wants to initiate meetings with Schindler or the accounting office before each semester.

“If we don’t know what enrollment is going to look like in Fall of 2016, and it’s going to affect our budgets, affect the clubs, affect the students, then we are in a loop,” says Ocailap. Senate has begun to invite department heads to sit in on Student Senate meetings and provide, in Ocailap’s words, “a more nuanced perspective of things going on around campus.”    

Delayed payments to Jostens for the 2014-2015 Tartan also took a $30,000 chunk out of the $162,675.00 Student Senate Budget last semester.  Usually, Tartan funds are taken out of the Spring budget, but when Jostens’ orders didn’t arrive until this fall, the $30,000 rolled over to the Fall 2015 budget. Even though Senate was aware that the Tartan payment had not been made last semester, Ocailap was still generous in allocating SACC funds to campus organizations and granting requests.

Out of consequence, less funds rolled over to this semester than usual.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a cause for concern,” says Ocailap, “but I do think that we need to be mindful in the future and very intentional in the way we think about those things: What to cut, what not to cut, and things like that.”

A Contingency Fund— adding up to $4,394.20 this semester—is set aside for emergency funding, but Ocailap is hesitant to withhold more than that amount from student organizations each semester.

When Ocailap sent a budget request packet to student organizations on the last week of December, he did not know that the SACC would drop almost $20,000 from the expected amount.  However, once Ocailap received the news, he was much more frugal when compiling the budget.  The final budget was finalized at the All-Student Senate meeting.

According to Student Senate President Travis Hutchinson, Senate gave much more conservatively to clubs that hadn’t used up all of their funds last semester, new clubs, or those on probation than better established groups.  Ocailap also asked club leaders to prioritize their needs.

“Clubs and the Campus Activity Board (CAB) — which took the biggest hit— have been very understanding,” Hutchinson said.  With a budget of $20,500, CAB received $18,085 less than what was originally requested.

According to club leader Jenny Washburne, the Outdoor Club was still able fund most of its major outings—including a NC Ski Trip—despite the budget cuts.  However, instead of providing “all-expenses paid” trips to a few people, the club now extends the opportunity to a greater number with $10 and under participation fee for food, gas, and other expenses.

“I kind of wish the Senate had told us a little earlier that they were going to be cutting the budget down because we would have planned a little better, but that’s fine.  We will just re-plan, rethink it,” she says.

However, even though the ski trip would have overreached the new budget, Washburne says “Senate was really great to pre-approve it.”  The club had discussed logistics for the $3,640 trip last fall, which prompted Senate to grant the request.

The Film Club received only $149 of the $739 requested for new equipment, including batteries, memory cards, and a camera-mounted drone.  Since the club was released from probation just this semester, member Nick Zarate says that the club didn’t expect to receive what was requested.

“I think it is good that we didn’t get that much, because I feel like we are still testing the water and this gives us a little more room to work with what we have at its full efficiency,” he says.  “It gives us a sense of responsibility for the things that we have.”