The Associated Students Inc. (ASI) approved its 2018-19 budget at a meeting last week before its May 1 deadline after an attempt to postpone a vote failed. But a heated discussion over a line item still stalled the process.
Vice President of Finance Cam Patterson highlighted notable changes and answered questions from senators about the final version of the budget before it was put to a vote during the meeting.
Some questions were answered easily, such as a question about a significant budget increase in funding for publicity.
ASI President Blake Zante said that a lot of students are still unaware of ASI and that by providing more funds for publicity, next year’s ASI team would have more resources to spread awareness and increase engagement between students and their elected representatives.
Other questions sparked a more heated debate, including the creation of a new line item in the budget labeled as “computer lab.”
Patterson referred to the computer lab as an M.O.U., or a Memorandum of Understanding.
“Whenever we grant funding to departments or organizations on major projects, we draft an M.O.U. in conjunction with them to make sure that all of the guidelines are outlined,” Zante said. “These MOUs have to be approved by the ASI senate and are typically negotiated by the executive team.”
Sen. Travis Childress, Greek affairs, contested the lab M.O.U. and said it was a way for the executive team to approve funding for a project that was never proposed and to influence the direction of the incoming ASI team.
Patterson said the incoming team would have the opportunity to either draft a proposal to be approved by the senate or deny the suggestions. For example, the current senate denied an M.O.U. from the previous ASI team allocating funds for “Frescon,” Patterson said.
The proposed M.O.U. for a computer lab in the amount of $8,000 would seek to add more computers to the current University Student Union.
Childress moved to postpone the vote until all senators had time to review the budget.
Sen. Amanda Smith, Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, asked Patterson to clarify if the vote was time-sensitive, and Patterson confirmed that the budget deadline is May 1 and the next senate meeting would be May 2.
Smith asked the senate to trust the the finance committee and the vice president of finance in the matters. Other senators agreed that all questions could be answered at the current meeting, and a postponement would not be necessary.
Childress became visibly frustrated and referenced a portion of an editorial written by The Collegian on Feb. 4 to further defend his motion to postpone. He held up the budget and spoke directly to Collegian reporters sitting in the audience.
“I believe that this is presented to us at the very last minute. Then we have had zero time to consider it,” Childress said. “We literally received this packet, Collegian, two hours before the meeting began. So it’s not like we didn’t [take] time to do our homework. Our homework wasn’t provided to us. You can think of this as a pop quiz.”
The comment referred to an excerpt of a Collegian editorial which had asked senators to “do their homework” outside of ASI senate meetings to serve the student body more efficiently.
Childress has repeatedly referred to the editorial and made direct comments to reporters during ASI meetings. The motion to postpone failed with 11 “no” votes and five “yes” votes.
Zante later addressed Childress’ comments in a statement to The Collegian.
“The budget is available on our share drive which all senators have access to in the ASI office,” he said. “They can also set up an appointment with VPF Patterson to see the budget. They can also talk to Tara Powers-Mead, our financial assistant, or Maci Steinhauer if they would like a copy of the budget.”
As reported in the same Collegian editorial, senators are often frequently invited to attend Finance Committee meetings which are held every other Wednesday at 4 p.m. where the budget was created and discussed for the past few months.
Zante added that the budget is meant to be transparent.
“I know there are certain people that think the executive team wear devil horns,” Zante said during the senate meeting, “But we are really trying to transparently convey the budget. Reach out and ask us questions. There is no need to make it into a big spectacle at ASI senate meetings and point out our friends at The Collegian. Just move forward in a nice transparent way.”
Childress moved to strike down the computer lab budget line and switch the $8,000 into the “new programs” budget line, instead. He said that doing so would make it explicitly clear to the incoming senate that it is not required to fund it.
The motion was seconded and approved, removing the M.O.U. for a computer lab from the budget. Zante said he disagreed with the decision.
“The purpose of having line items for all of our approved budget call applications is to outline for the next ASI senate how much is specifically allocated for that item and that the public can see what ASI is specifically budgeting for,” Zante said. “While I disagreed with the decision to move the USU computer lab line item into the general new projects line item, I will support the decision of the ASI senate.”