Students voice proposed budget concerns at open forum


The Student Government Senate chambers were swollen with interested students and administrators Feb. 17 as the senate’s Budget and Allocations Committee held an open forum to discuss SG’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

The B&A Committee approved a budget Feb. 12 that will go before the senate at large Monday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. The senate will then vote to amend, approve or send the budget back to the committee for further deliberations.

The senate meeting March 1 will be held in the senate chambers, located in the Student Union. The meeting is open to the public, and student remarks will be heard at the beginning of the evening.

Students and administrators representing various campus groups and organizations voiced their concerns over the proposed budget.

Those in attendance questioned the proposed funding cuts to Campus Recreation, the Interfaith Center, the International Center and the Center for Student Media, among others.

Keenan Webb, a UNF English senior and an Eco-Adventure staffer, asked whether setting aside funding for the Osprey Tailgate Classic was worth slashing funding from other departments.

“I’ve enjoyed the Tailgate Classic, I was there last year — good times, it was great. Was that worth a whole year’s worth of Eco-Adventure or Osprey Radio or the Spinnaker or these other departments?” Webb said. “No. Those are the everyday things that we utilize as students, I love partying as much as the next guy, but I don’t believe that [the Osprey Tailgate Classic] should be factored into the budget whatsoever.”

B&A Committee Chair Sen. Kyle Nelson and committee member Sen. Erica Richey answered questions and promised to revisit the budget, taking into account students’ apprehensions.

Nelson defended increased funding for events like the Osprey Tailgate Classic and Homecoming in the proposed budget. Nelson said the B&A Committee is attempting to “build in” these events in order to avoid dipping into the special requests fund.

Nelson said SG has been forced to take out about $150,000 to cover special request funding for these events and things like student education conferences.

“It’s not fair for the students for the money to have to come out of special request funds,” Nelson said.

SG Treasurer Matt Samra, whose budget proposals the B&A Committee debated and at least partially adopted Feb. 12, arrived after the forum began because of an exam scheduling conflict, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Other SG luminaries in attendance included Student Body President John Barnes, Vice President Mike Saathoff and Chief of Staff Tom Blanchard.

Barnes applauded the students in attendance for their engagement and promised not to sign the budget in it’s current form, but said he wanted everyone to be realistic about SG’s funding limitations.

“I guarantee I’m not going to sign the budget that was proposed by B&A, that’s not going to happen,” Barnes said. “I’m not telling you you’re all going to get your money ‘cause it doesn’t exist. There’s not enough money. It’s not there, that’s just how it is. I wish we could give everybody everything, I would love to do that, but it’s not there.”

Mark Smith, a post-baccalaureate student at UNF, the office manager of the Center for Student Media and a former SG treasurer, commended the B&A Committee’s hard work but advised them to take a different approach.

Smith encouraged the committee to look into the possibility of short-term deficit spending to alleviate the pain the proposed cuts may inflict. This could be done through using some of SG’s $1.5 million fund balance to cover current budget shortfalls.

Smith also said the best course of action for the senate at present would be to send the budget back to committee for further consideration.

“Send it back to committee, work on it some more, have another forum like this, hear thoughts and find some compromises,” Smith said. “This doesn’t have to end this way, and I think the president [Barnes] is committed that it won’t.”