A.S. battles tight budget

Weeks of wrangling, including a tangle over textbooks and the near-elimination of the alumni affairs coordinator, has resulted in the passage of Associated Students budgets for 2004-05.

The Governmental Affairs Committee voted 7-0 on May 3 to pass the $1.2 million activity fee budget. Earlier, it had passed the $310,812 student government office budget.

A.S. President Michael Dailey, acknowledging that the move was ironic for a Republican, pushed for a less-conservative version of the budget than that proposed by Executive Vice President Adam Dondro and Chela Patterson, the staff member who advises the GAC.

Students’ passage last month of fee increases meant another $240,000 a year for the A.S., and rather than use that money to built reserves back up, Dailey felt the GAC should honor the intent of the vote and maintain programs at their current levels. “These are programs that go right back to students,” he said.

One of the areas Dailey argued for was retaining membership in CSSA, the California State Students Association, which lobbies and advises student governments on legislation, fees and other issues. The GAC agreed to limit the CSSA travel budget but allow $15,750 for dues and other expenses.

The GAC vigorously debated whether elected officers should continue to get a $150-per-semester bookstore allowance—especially when programs such as Rape Crisis and Earth Month were losing $1,000 apiece and the activity fee and multicultural affairs councils were down $5,000 each. (That money was ultimately restored.)

Mario Sagastume, commissioner of activity fee, said, “Cut our [book stipends] and spread it out further [to A.S. program directors]. Share the wealth. … There are better places this money could go than back to us. It should be going to the students.”

Women’s Center Director Rachel Whiting said she was surprised to learn the officers were getting book bonuses. “Why are some parts of A.S. getting that money and some aren’t?” she asked. “To me, it’s a slap in the face.”

But others pointed out that with the GAC having already made $28,000 in mid-year cuts, including dropping officers’ stipends by 10 percent, one of the few perks left is free books.

“It honors officers who work hard … who make weighty decisions,” Dailey said. “I think it’s a little petty. It’s $1,200 [per semester].”

The money stayed, with a 6-2 vote.

Also, the GAC decided to keep the position of alumni affairs coordinator. Some had thought the luxury of the position could not be afforded, even with re-entry affairs already rolled into the job of the new student affairs commissioner. To erase alumni affairs, said current Commissioner Alicia Daily, would be “pretty messed up.” But using money from an unfilled clerical position allowed the $4,700-a-year position to stay.

The GAC also decided to drop its capital-expenditures budget from $50,800 to $35,000.

Patterson warned the student leaders that they’d just added $14,450 into an already-tight budget, raiding reserves to do so.

"I feel OK about that," Dailey pronounced.