ASUCD holds annual budget hearings for 2018-2019 school year

TREVOR GOODMAN / AGGIE

Federal increase in labor costs demands extra $300,000 cost, diminishing money available to units

From Friday, May 18 to Monday, May 21, the ASUCD executive team and Senate table conducted annual budget hearings in the Mee Room on the third floor of the Memorial Union. Units, committees and commissions each drafted individual proposed budgets for the 2018-19 school year. The executive office offered the president’s proposed budget for every respective ASUCD organization and, with deliberation from Senate, created a final approved budget.

Budget hearings were initially scheduled for the weekend of May 18 — 5 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. At the May 17 Senate meeting, the table voted to extend proceedings to Monday after senate pro tempore, Jake Sedgley, brought forward complaints sent via email by unit directors about lack of preparedness from both sides.

“To my knowledge, budgets are supposed to be in by Week 5 of Spring Quarter,” said Destiny Padilla, a second-year community and regional development and Chicano studies double major and unit director of the Office of Advocacy and Student Representation. “Unit directors didn’t get hardly any reminders about budgets being submitted by Week 5.”

Monica Dwight, a fourth-year Spanish and political science public service double major and Whole Earth Festival unit director, said she did not see the president’s proposed budget for WEF until the day before their unit’s hearing on Monday, May 21.

ASUCD Bylaws 1004 and 1005 say it is the job of the controller, a position currently held by Meital Machlusky, a second-year managerial economics and international relations double major, to coordinate preliminary budget meetings with each unit and stay in communication throughout the budget drafting process so as to ensure budgets are in by Week 5.

The president’s proposed budget is to be sent “to the ASUCD Senate and The California Aggie no fewer than five (5) business days in advance of Budget Hearings. Copies of the ASUCD President’s recommendations for each Unit shall be sent to the appropriate Unit Directors and the ASUCD Business and Finance Commission,” according to Bylaw 1003(B).

The president’s proposed budget was not completed until the morning of the first day of budget hearings. The executive office cites lack of responses from units after emailing them for the prolonged release of their president’s budget.

“We started this process April 26,” said Shellan Saling, a fourth-year international relations major and executive chief of staff. “Some directors received three or four emails, like, ‘You need to come in for budget hearings.’ [With] some units, it got to the point where I was literally messaging the adopted units’ senators on Facebook saying, ‘Okay, where is this? Where are they? Why haven’t they been communicating with me?’”

ASUCD President Michael Gofman said the executive team began reaching out to units right after Machlusky was sworn in on April 19, the third week of Spring Quarter. This is not in line with ASUCD bylaws saying the budgeting process was to start in Winter Quarter.

“This is how it has worked for the past two executive teams,” Gofman said. “People in this association live very busy lives doing their work and one thing that hindered [Meital’s] progress was getting responses. So, we didn’t actually have the responses from every unit, given that we were in communication with every single unit for close to three weeks until the Monday before budget hearings.”

Hearings were extended rather than postponed as unit directors requested to avoid scheduling them on Memorial Day weekend and to secure quorum on the Senate table.

“We were in the position where budget hearings have to happen now, because if they’re going to happen during the weekdays not all senators will be there for every single occasion and then all of a sudden we’re put in the position where someone who cares a lot about a particular issue won’t be able to speak,” Gofman said.

Due to a California-mandated yearly dollar increase to all minimum wage workers and a 12.5 percent pay increase in stipend positions, ASUCD has accumulated a $300,000 increase in labor costs this year. The executive team also entered budget hearings with a $13,852 deficit. Consequently, significantly less money was made available to distribute among units.

OASR’s budget hearing took place on Saturday, May 19. Its proposed budget was $81,564. This proposed amount was an increase of $30,000 as compared to the $50,474 budget OASR had received for the 2017-2018 school year. The majority of their proposed budget was $59,834 in Special Projects. These projects include funding for students to attend conferences such as UC Hill Day, Student of Color Conference and Labor Conference. From within OASR’s proposed Special Projects budget was $39,086 in fees owed to the University of California Student Association.

“We have not paid fees for the past four years, but every other UC campus does,” Padilla said. “We’ve gotten fee waivers but UCSA, won’t let us this year.”

OASR approached budget hearings with a desire to add two paid positions to its membership for a cumulative six. The unit has remained understaffed and underfunded compared to other UC’s OASR, departments preventing students from attending conferences.

“If we don’t pay the fees, our access is shut off,” Padilla said at OASR’s hearing. “That’s Davis’ voice in those meetings cut off. […] We already are largely out of the conversations because we don’t have the capacity.”

Gofman is confident the amount in UCSA fees will be waived again this year as they have been in the past. What cannot be explicitly given from ASUCD’s operating budget for special projects is encouraged to be acquired through the unit’s pursuit of grants.

“Additionally, I’m working with Student Affairs so if that fee isn’t waived, we have funding from it internally to pay for it for this year as we work out a permanent solution for the coming years,” Gofman said.

A point of contention pointed out by OASR at hearings was over the CoHo, the day prior, being issued $3,000 in their final approved budget for optional-to-wear staff t-shirts. According to Padilla, this amount of money would have funded more than one new OASR position.

OASR’s final approved budget allowed for the same number of four paid positions and an overall total of $44,632. Of that amount, $15,507 was allocated for special projects.

The Whole Earth Festival’s budget hearing fell on Monday, May 21. A day prior to budget hearings, the unit noted a line item in the president’s proposed budget for WEF to acquire $10,000 in sponsorships and advertisements.

“We were not happy about that because that had not been mentioned in our meeting with the controller when the president wasn’t present,” Dwight said. “We had explicitly said we did not support sponsorships because we don’t support corporations and it’s not really feasible to get a large amount of money out of small businesses.”

The line item was included as a means of increasing revenue from notably profitable units like WEF and Picnic Day. In response to its addition, WEF made a call to community members or any individuals affiliated with the festival to provide testimonials on behalf of the festival against the line item.

Ultimately, the line item was eliminated in exchange for WEF cutting elsewhere in its budget. Four new stipend positions were reduced to three and a new staff development position was eliminated.

The Mental Health Initiative, like other committees, was allocated $100 in the president’s proposed budget. MHI proposed $15,000.

“[UC Davis’] counseling program is really underfunded,” said Katrina Manrique, a third-year history and English major and co-director of MHI. “There’s not a lot of mental health resources out there. There’s a ton of accessibility issues. This all leads to students needing these resources. A lot of students go to us for support, for navigation, to compensate for the lack of resources that already exist on this campus. As a result, we kind of have to go the extra effort of compensating for what administration fails to do.”

MHI co-director Sam Chiang claimed the assertion by the management team — composed of the president, vice president, controller and ASUCD business manager, Greg Ortiz —  that no extra money was available to MHI was false.

“If you wanted to make us a priority, you could,” Chiang said. “The money is there; you just need to find it. It’s a question whether you care about our mental health.”

As committee members are not paid, the unit also advocated for six new paid stipend positions to compensate for the level of labor members put into the initiative. Similar to WEF, individuals were present to provide accounts of MHI’s impact on their personal lives and of its significance to students.

After much discussion, MHI was allocated the same $100 as other committees were given. The table committed to advocating on behalf of MHI to campus administration through the passing of emergency legislation promising “that ASUCD Senate will work with administration (primarily Student Affairs and the Chancellor) to help secure further funding,” according to Manrique.

“There were a lot of senators that were hesitant to give us money, again, out of fairness,” Manrique said. “But I would continue to argue that our work is way more expansive than I think other committees are.”

Both Padilla and Chiang claimed during their unit’s budget hearings that the reason their respective units were not granted the amount of money they felt they deserved was due to lack of appreciation.

“As much as they say, ‘If we had more money we could have given it to you,’ I don’t believe that,” Padilla said. “OASR has never been a valued unit, because I think the advocacy that they want is different from the advocacy we do for OASR, because we prioritize marginalized identities on this campus.”

Gofman’s response to claims of preferences between units was: “Our perspective is exclusively to make a balanced budget and making sure that each unit is treated equally but at the end of the day, honestly, very few units had what they needed, let alone what they wanted.”

A packet by the executive office is currently being created that will detail the process of budget hearings for the next administration. It will contain instructions and dates which can be found in the bylaws for readers to follow in order to avoid the rushed process of this year’s hearings.

Units, senators and the executive alike shared sentiments of emotional exhaustion after the events of the weekend.

Gofman acknowledged the inefficiency in which budget hearings were conducted providing that they went, however, as efficiently as they could have gone. In the coming school year, he predicts the executive team will be more closely involved in their relationship with units, saying many promises were made that they intend to act on.

“We had to make a lot painful choices, rather, these weren’t choices, we had to make a lot of painful decisions and we made them,” Gofman said. “And I, in my role, was more than willing to take the heat of it and basically the brunt of the results of it because it will save a lot of other people from doing so.”

“I think I understand how it can be difficult to be in a bind of a big budget, and I feel like the senators felt a lot of that pressure but I think what I would want from ASUCD as an association is to be better organized and to understand what their priorities are,” Padilla said.

The approved budget will not be revisited until the first week of Fall Quarter to be approved as Senate Bill #1.

 

 

Written by: Elizabeth Mercado — campus@theaggie.org