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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Numbers show discrepancies in ASUCD spending

In ASUCD senate meetings, senators debate how much money to allocate to certain projects. However, the monetary value listed on senate bills doesn’t always accurately reflect how much ASUCD is spending.

Since 2009-10, ASUCD has passed 28 capital spending bills. In a sample of 12, 11 of the bills had monetary discrepancies. Discrepancies ranged from $100 to $2,000, and the majority of allocations were actually less than the bill stated, according to numbers provided by Kathy Wilton, ASUCD office manager.

For example, Senate Bill 23 of this year, for a new table and chairs for the student government conference room, was slated to cost $1,017. ASUCD actually spent $316. In 2009-10, the senate allocated $4,000 to go toward a video podcasting system in Chemistry 194 and Sciences Lecture Hall. ASUCD spent $2,531.

After the ASUCD president signs a spending bill, Wilton is given a copy of the bill and creates an expenditure account. It is then up to the bill’s author to spend the money, said Mark Champagne, ASUCD business manager.

Champagne also said that a bill stays current until the end of the fiscal year, although the funds could be carried over to the next fiscal year if the author needs more time. Any unused funds roll back into the reserve accounts, and any overdrafts roll out of them. 

Spending more than stated

The sample revealed one case in which ASUCD spent more than senators discussed or voted on. In 2009-10, ASUCD spent $12,868 on equipment for the Bike Barn, even though Senate Bill 67 was for $11,081.

Champagne said this kind of discrepancy typically occurs one of two ways: the shipping and tax are not included in the bill, or the price of an item increases from the initial quote.

In the case of the Bike Barn, the overrun was caused by $1,152 in contract support, $389 in additional printer receipt material and $350 for a data conversion.

“Contract support is when you need to contact the company in case the system goes down…” Champagne said in an e-mail. “This should probably have been taken out of the operating budget, but was included in one large invoice from the company, Tri-Technical Systems.”Digital recordings remain offline

With Senate Bill 11 in 2009-10, ASUCD allocated $244.66 to purchase equipment to record senate meetings and post the audio online.

“Creating podcasts of important ASUCD discussions and making them available on the ASUCD website will increase transparency of ASUCD proceedings and create a more informed student population,” the bill states.

Ultimately, $139 was spent on the project. However, these recordings haven’t made it online yet.

Ryan Meyerhoff, ASUCD webmaster, said he had no idea the equipment had been purchased all. No senators or members of the executive office ever asked him to put recordings online, he said.

“Conceivably it’d be really easy to upload the digital files, but I haven’t had any to upload,” Meyerhoff said.

ASUCD Vice President Bree Rombi obtained the equipment from her predecessor, Previn Witana, and recorded some meetings this year. She said she’s encountered technical difficulties though, and she’s not sure whether or not the senate will have to buy new software to advance the project. It may not be worth it, she said.

Vodcasting systems virtually unused thus far

The senate put $2,531 toward video podcasting systems in Chemistry 194 and Sciences Lecture Hall 123. Since its implementation in Winter 2011, one professor has utilized the lecture capture system – John Roth, professor of microbiology.

The ASUCD funds were used in addition to support from the Office of the Registrar, the UC Davis School of Law, Information and Educational Technology and Academic Technology Services, said Joe Kelley, senior development engineer at Academic Technology Services.

Kelley said he might need to work more closely with ASUCD to garner more faculty interest. But despite the fact that only one professor used the system, Kelley said that he wants to further the project, as student response in Roth’s class was significant.

“We are hoping to pilot another lecture capture system in the Fall Quarter that will be accessible to the ASUCD and others,” he said in an e-mail. “Lecture Capture will become more prevalent over the next few years.”

JANELLE BITKER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Hi. Concerned voter here. It seems to me the point is to shed light on the distribution of our student fees. Its just information… Why is that so wrong to write about? I’m definitely not going to look it up myself.

    Maybe it’s not a big deal but it is interesting to note.

  2. This article is a MESS. “in a sample of 12 of 28” …. that’s statistical significance right there for you.

  3. Hey, RealityCheck, I’m all for examining the expenditures of ASUCD, and I think there are plenty of cases where they should do so. There just doesn’t seem to be much of a story here.

    In the case of the vodcasting system, it sounds like it was just installed last quarter… so its not a big surprise that a bunch of professors haven’t signed up for it. Give it time before you criticize an expenditure. And with podcasting senate meetings… well its too bad that it’s not working out the way it should, but it was an honest effort on ASUCD’s part to increase transparency, even though who the hell would ever want to listen to those fuckers talk unless they absolutely had to?

  4. Yeah Dylan… WE DEMAND TO KNOW WHY THE AGGIE IS DOING ITS JOB OF EXAMINING THE EXPENDITURES OF STUDENT GOVERNMENT!

  5. This is a great story, great idea. This is exactly the kind of thing student newspapers are made for. It doesn’t matter whether it makes the Senate look bad or look good. I’m not sure why the above commenters think it’s no big deal that ASUCD Senate spent money on technology for podcasting Senate meetings and vodcasting lectures, and yet, students have seen virtually no results from it. It’s like they just spent the money because they just felt like spending money.

  6. I would like the Aggie to explain the purpose of this article… who cares if ASUCD is spending less money than it allocated on certain expenditures, or that some technology isn’t working as well as people would have hoped.

  7. I agree with “SuperCereally” here. Again, it seems like the Aggie hasn’t taken the time to actually figure out the point of spending bills. Typically, the appropriation for each spending bill represents the MAXIMUM amount to be spent on the project/purchase proposed. If more is spent than originally allocated, it has probably been approved and/or is necessary.

    Seems like another instance where the Aggie is trying to stir things up that have already been properly mixed and sorted.

  8. Great story Aggie…but what is the point? In most of the examples, ASUCD spent less-and what they approve is the maximum allowed and every bill states, all monies not spent will be returned. Every once in a while, something goes wrong in the numbers and the business manager can authorize the change.

    Maybe the Aggie should spend more time seeing the work the senators and commissions do and making students see how much time goes into their great projects.

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