On Wednesday, the ASUNM Senate will deliberate over its spring budget bill, which reflects the campus-wide financial strain on UNM as well as a continued trend of ASUNM and its related entities receiving the vast amount of student fees up for grabs.
The Finance Committee, which proposes the budget each semester, recommended $689,652 total to be allocated to student groups and organizations, from $690,000 that was available from student fees. That number is right in line with the last two years, when around $691,000 was allocated to groups by ASUNM.
Also, as with the last two years, Finance Committee members were forced to make cuts — at times drastic ones — across the board from what groups were requesting. Student groups were requesting about $1.14 million in funds, 165 percent more than the amount that was eventually allocated.
“The Finance Committee had more student organizations apply for a budget this semester than previous semesters, which added to the challenge of budget deliberations,” said Finance Committee Chair Hannah Williams.
Another trend this budget upholds is allocating about three fourths of the total funds to ASUNM-related groups and line items.
137 total groups — which include the Agora Crisis Center, the Interfraternity Council, various foreign language groups, and ASUNM agencies such as Student Special Events — applied for funding from the spring budget process. That number is up from 115 last year and 112 from 2015, but much less than the 160 groups that received funding from a $718,000 pie in 2014.
Williams said that while student fee strain — a byproduct of continuously dropping enrollment figures at UNM — was a challenge in making final recommendations, they were able to make it work by focusing on putting all student organizations on an even playing field.
“We relied on our Law Book and worked to maintain consistency throughout all student organizations, while still focusing on the individual need of each budget,” she said.
Last semester the Daily Lobo investigated a trend in recent spring ASUNM budgets that showed that ASUNM line items in the budget seemed to receive a majority of the funding, despite representing a small fraction of the groups requesting funds.
Last spring’s budget bill allocated 76 percent of the funds dispersed to line items and agencies directly affiliated with ASUNM, accounting for things such as salaries, operating costs and large-scale events such as Fiestas, organized by ASUNM Student Special Events. The individuals in those agencies are not the same ones that deliberate and pass the budget in committee and full Senate; however, agency directors are appointed by ASUNM leaders.
At the time, ASUNM leaders said that the agencies — eight of them in total — “play a major role in what we do here at ASUNM, and we believe the services they provide to students are an invaluable aspect to the student experience.”
That trend of between 70 and 75 percent of funds being allocated to ASUNM and its agencies has stayed consistent in recent years, despite annual turnover in the leaders of the undergraduate student governing body.
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The proposed budget for this spring continues the trend. The average amount recommended by the Finance Committee for 124 non-ASUNM related groups or entities is just under $1,450 each, while the committee recommends over $39,000 for each of the budget’s 13 ASUNM line items.
In total, $510,225 from this year’s spring budget bill was proposed for ASUNM line items, comprising 74 percent of the budget. ASUNM Student Special Events alone, despite being cut over $100,000 from its initial request, was recommended to receive about $160,000.
The non-ASUNM entity recommended to receive the most funding was Agora, with about $26,500.
Those agencies do go through the same budget process and must answer the same questions all other student groups are asked. Williams said among the information the groups requesting funding must provide are the number of active members in their groups, their fundraising efforts, the impact they plan to make on campus and how they would use the funds allotted to them.
The proposed 2017 spring budget bill will be deliberated over at ASUNM’s next Senate meeting on Wednesday. If passed, it will go on to ASUNM President Kyle Biederwolf.
David Lynch is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.