Two weeks ago, during the first Associated Students Inc. (ASI) meeting of the spring 2018 semester, ASI senators discussed various ways to spend an enormous reserve fund of $700,000.
Where did the reserve come from?
ASI vice president of finance Cam Patterson said the reserve fund is the result of many years of accumulated student fees and budget surpluses.
“We set aside a budget every single year,” Patterson explained. “Usually around $680,000. So I have to predict student fee revenue. But there’s no perfect way to predict that.”
Patterson said that student fee revenue tends to fluctuate due to changing enrollment numbers each year, often creating a budget surplus.
In addition to surpluses in fee revenue, the difference from budgeted expenses and the actual amount spent for programs and services at the end of the year also feeds into the growing reserves.
“That money just pools over into our reserve fund,” Patterson said. “Sometimes we decide to take a little bit out to spend on sponsored activities grants. Sometimes it just rolls over, and that’s what it’s been doing for the past few years.”
Patterson estimated that the reserve fund has been growing for almost a decade.
This means that although past senators have used some funds from the reserve, students paying fees each semester may not have benefited fully from their contributions.
“Students pay that every single year,” Patterson said. “So it doesn’t do the students of Fresno State justice for that money just to be sitting in some figurative bank.”
Spending the $700,000 reserve fund was a main focus during the first ASI meeting of 2018. The ASI senate has decided to find ways to return those funds to students, something ASI President Blake Zante advocated for, according to Patterson.
Big plans for the $700,000
Pending a vote by the senate, about $5,000 from the reserve will be donated to the Student Cupboard on campus as requested by Zante at the last meeting, Patterson said.
ASI Vice President of External Affairs Demi Wack has requested $20,000 for a proposal to add benches to the Peace Garden and Craig School of Business. That project will be voted on at the next ASI meeting, on Jan. 31.
The largest portion requested is a total of $100,000 to create the ASI Impact Grant. The grant would be given to clubs or organizations requesting funds related to general use, technology, sustainability, clubs or campus climate with a maximum $5,000 being awarded per application.
“Technology is definitely our biggest field,” Patterson said. “But we want clubs to have the chance to be funded for things that they normally wouldn’t be funded for. I want to be able to say that ASI supported this not just with our words, but with funding, as well.”
According to Patterson, the reserve fund is separate from the budget itself, which means that the use of the remaining $575,000 can be decided at any time during the semester.
Changes to the budget call process
Patterson said the budget call process for next year is now accepting applications from organizations on campus.
“If any departments or organizations on campus think that they contribute valuable programming, I encourage them to apply for budget call,” Patterson said. “This allows me to incorporate them in the budget for next year, which makes them a priority. Money is power at the end of the day.”
Patterson said he has been working to change the way funding is requested on campus, implementing a new rubric to ensure that resources will have a substantial impact on the quality of student life.
In addition to a written application, those requesting funds can now speak directly with the finance committee, made up of various members of ASI, to explain how they will utilize the funds.
“My goal here is for transparency,” Patterson said, “I want every organization to know that we look at their application just the same as the next organization’s.”
An example of an approved application from previous fiscal years is the Clothing Closet located in the Career Development Center on campus. The closet service gives students free access to professional clothing to use for interviews.