The Angert “conspiracy” that’s jeopardizing next year’s budget

How is GUSA doing on this year’s approval of the budget? I’m glad you asked. Here’s how Matt Wagner (SFS ’11) broke it down to the Senate yesterday.

“We have a budget the Senate voted ‘no’ on, and no new budget from the Funding Board, [the group of seven Senators and six heads of other student groups that creates the budget every year]. We either approve a budget on Wednesday, or we don’t.

What happens if the year ends and the Senate does not approve a budget? I talked to Erika Cohen-Derr, and she said there are two possibilities. A) clubs simply don’t get a budget from us, period, and that money is saved and rolled over into next year. That means a third of the funding for some of these groups is gone. B) administrators, namely Erika and her second-in-command Bill McCoy, give these student groups whatever budget they deem appropriate because the student government they over see failed to do that.

(Emphasis and paragraphing mine.)

You’d think that, seeing as the budget for next year was hashed out roughly two months ago, GUSA would have approved it by now. Instead, they’ve rejected it twice and are pushing hard to get it approved before the last day of classes.

What’s gotten our favorite student bureaucrats into this mess? It’s a “huge conspiracy,” according to Senator Johnny Solis (SFS ’11). Check out the full story after the jump.

Let me do a little review before we get to the good stuff. There’s been a lot of talk in the Senate recently about the massive reserve funds campus clubs have in interest-free accounts. Some Senators say that the clubs should keep those reserve funds in case they need them. (The example Matt Wagner brought up yesterday was when GPB didn’t realize that no one would want to see a massively expensive Fountains of Wayne concert. When GPB’s love for “Stacey’s Mom” wore off, they had to go five figures into their reserve fund to recoop their losses). Other Senators, and GUSA President Calent Angert (MSB ’10), think that money should be spent to directly help the student body.

Here’s where the conspiracy comes in: it seems that Angert thinks the best way to spend that money is to give it to him, for the creation of his Georgetown Fund. The existing budget for next year—the one the Senate has failed to approve for two months—says nothing about feeding the fund, so it would be real nice for Calen if GUSA re-did budget.

How do you get a new budget? That’s the job of the Funding Board, which makes decisions by consensus. But there’s a nice little loophole: if the Funding Board can’t agree on something within ten days, the decision goes to a majority vote. And because GUSA is the majority on that board, after ten days of disagreement, they can do whatever they want if they all vote as a bloc.

What it seems like Calen is hoping for is that GUSA will call another meeting of the Funding Board to discuss a more Angert-friendly budget. Even if they don’t all agree, after ten days, GUSA can band together to pass the new budget and give Calen the money for his fund.

A number of Senators have started to do exactly what Calen wants them to do: vote down the budget and force the Funding Board to come up with a new one. According to Johnny, Tim Swenson (COL ’10) and Sam Hyman (COL ’12) have been calling Senators, asking them to vote against the budget and make the funding board reconvene. Coincidentally enough, Tim and Sam were appointed to Calen’s cabinet before Matt asked them to step down because of conflicts of interest. Tim even sent an email to other members of the Finance and Appropriations Committee, (conveniently forgetting to copy Matt), urging them to start the process that would, in his words, “get the clock ticking.” As he said in the email,

“All we need is at least 7 people from the funding board to be in the room and ‘convene’ it. We can discuss whatever we want but once we’ve convened that meeting the budget starts and the clock ticks down. “

Well, the Funding Board hasn’t convened, and the Senate has no new budget to approve. Meanwhile, the year is winding down and clubs are quickly running out of money. So where do we go from here?

Senators in Calen’s camp may be out of time. In a last-minute attempt to get a new budget on the table, Nick Troiano (COL ’11) tried to amend the rules governing the Funding Board so all decisions would be made by a 2/3 majority vote. The amendment just barely failed 7-9-2, making it impossible for the board to vote on a new budget before the school year ends.

According to Senator Johnny Solis (SFS ’11), it’s not that Calen is evil or power-hungry. He’s just looking to come through on a campaign promise:

I believe Calen’s vision of a Georgetown Fund is a great idea.  But I believe he did not think out his plan enough. He put all student organizations at risk, and pushed them to the limit so campus funding boards are running on fumes and they’re starting to get scared… He should have been more prudent and realized the effects this would have on the student body.

Stay tuned for Wednesday’s meeting and the final budget vote.

14 Comments on “The Angert “conspiracy” that’s jeopardizing next year’s budget

  1. It’s also important to note that the Senate, nearly unanimously, passed a resolution 2 weeks ago that declared its intention to withhold approval until certain conditions have been met with a revised budget. Among those conditions were getting rid of the surplus, increasing transparency through semester-reports, and presenting a binding agreement to spend down the massive reserves.

    Because the 13 people on the Funding Board could not, in many many weeks, find a time to meet – the revisions to the budget could not happen. Therefore I’m voting against the budget if it is brought up on Wednesday as is. [I believe in order for us to even consider the budget again, either myself or Irina need to move to reconsider the failed one since we voted against it originally – and I have no intention of doing that].

    If the Funding Board gets its act together, they can meet before the week is up to settle this issue, and the Senate will convene afterwards to (hopefully) pass the new one.

    The problems were are facing will persist if the Senate continues to rubber stamp a flawed process and the fiscal irresponsibility of the Funding Board and its many members. In the interim, the Funding Board could use their half million dollar + reserves to cover any immediate costs.

    Students deserve to have their money spent wisely.

  2. Two quick items:

    1.) The Funding Board no longer exists. It was replaced three years ago now by the Finance and Appropriations Committee of the Senate, which has an annual “budget summit,” which is what you’re calling the Funding Board. The budget summit is a meeting of the FinAp Committee governed by special rules, not its own standalone organization governed by its own rules. Using the term Funding Board is confusing because the two organizations were governed by very, very, VERY different rules, and conflating them is likely to cause petty bickering about by-laws that nobody will want to see. Trust me, this may seem semantic but if things get bad then the semantic argument will come alive and begin rampaging through the countryside.

    2.) The clubs clearly aren’t running out of money considering that they have more than $800,000 in reserves, enough to fund themselves for more than a year. With the exception of Club Sports, they could all continue operating for more than a year without any further funding from the Fee or any other source at all, and that seems to be the problem that the Senate is wisely trying to correct. Even if they depleted all of that funding, they could still likely operate at nearly 100% budgets permanently using only the funding coming from tuition and the Coke contract. Believe me, the only crisis here is whether the advisory boards get one more year of wasting student money.

    You can argue about how Calen is doing what he’s doing, but I don’t think even Matt Wagner would disagree with the goal of bringing down these ludicrous reserves.

  3. Thanks for the corrections, A. I didn’t know the Funding Board no longer existed, actually. That’s the term everyone’s been throwing around. I’ll double check before I put it in our print issue.
    I believe the $800,000 figure is from last year. Calen said in a Senate meeting in March that that number was more like $775,000, which is still a lot, but I think that’s even lower now. The budget summit is now in control of the Coke money as well, from what I hear.
    The perception that this is a crisis is really widespread among SAC clubs right now because of an email Chair Aakib Khaled sent out to every club it funds. In the email, which was sent out yesterday, he said that if SAC gets no GUSA money, “SAC’s financial capabilities will be reduced by some $52 thousand dollars, or about 25%.” They have also dipped about $80,000 into their reserves in the past year, I think. He emphasized that SAC would have to reevaluate the requests they granted. Johnny Solis said he’s been getting a lot of calls from panicked club heads.
    So, regardless of whether or not it is possible for organizations to continue at 100% with no new money, I don’t think it’s an option they’re likely to take.
    And, Nick, you’re totally right about the measures GUSA asked for. I’m sorry I didn’t include it in the post.
    The bottom line is, tt sounds like what will happen if GUSA doesn’t approve the budget is that Erika Cohen-Derr will create one, and that, as Matt Wagner said at yesterday’s meeting, is something nobody wants to see happen.

  4. Are the reserves just one big pot of unallocated money, or do different clubs/orgs have various amounts in reserve based on what they may have spent or budgeted in past years? And, if it’s the latter, how do you find which club/org is sitting on huge reserves?

  5. Just to clarify one point – when Matt Wagner and I talked about this, I was speaking in hypotheticals playing out possible scenarios that could occur if the budget wasn’t passed. For the record, I will not create a budget for GUSA or any other student organization.

  6. As A pointed out, with the exception of Club Sports, I’d be very interested to see how a lack of budget would hurt anyone in the short to medium term.

    Lilian, can you dig some more? Like, actually verifying how much SAC has in their reserves, if they spent $80k of it this year and what, specifically, they spent it on?

    I have to agree with Nick here. The Finance & Appropriation Committee’s Budget Summit in March produced a bill that the Senate has repeatedly roundly voted down. They have done this on multiple occasions – both before and after Calen Angert was elected President.

    One of Angert’s main proposals was the creation of a ‘Georgetown Fund’ – $30k for GUSA to dispense to clubs or individuals with good ideas as they see fit. He was elected with a strong majority in one of the biggest turnouts in the past decade.

    If the various funding boards refuse to meet for another Budget Summit, they are in effect holding GUSA and the students hostage – not the other way around. This “10 day to reach consensus” view has clearly not produced effective results if a unanimous Senate and a mandate from the student body for fiscal change does little.

    In the end, any budget is better than no budget. But if the boards refuse to cooperate and GUSA is forced to pass a mediocre budget, they should expect a stringent review of the consensus requirement for the future. And remember – the FinAp committee can call a budget summit anytime it wishes to re-allocate or adjust funding — the only requirement is that it’s called at least once a year. So GUSA is well within its rights to pass this budget now and call another meeting in the fall — perhaps with rules more amenable to the will of the students.

  7. This is all great conversation, but can we try to move away from anonymous comments? I’d really be interested in knowing who everyone is when they make such great comments.

  8. A is right about the funding board not being in existence anymore. It was voted out with the Accountability & Reform Amendment.

    Check the GUSA by-laws (available on the website, and search for the section on the Finance & Appropriations Committee.

    It reads (in relevant parts):

    (b) Finance Appropriations Committee
    This committee shall be the only Committee which may produce bills to allocate funding among the various boards… One representative from each advisory board shall have a vote on any and all allocations of the Student Activities Fee …

    The Committee shall convene at least one annual budget summit, at which each and every head member of each advisory boards, as defined in the by-laws, must present their annual budgetary requests jointly. These requests must include, but are not limited to, their expenditures over the last fiscal year, any requests for additional funding with justification behind such requests, and any other information the Committee so deems.

  9. Lillian, I know you cover GUSA but I think it would be hugely beneficial to talk to the head of SAC/CSJ/ etc…personally in order to get the whole story. The content of some of these anonymous comments is completely false. Like, ridiculously factually incorrect.

    Anyway, I try to refrain from posting because I’ve graduated and this is a problem for current students to work on, but as someone who went was at the FinAp meeting twice, worked closely with GUSA, sat on a funding board for three years, and was chair of CSJ ABSO my senior year, my pet peeve is misinformation.

    Anyway, if the budget does not pass all groups SAC and otherwise will have significantly reduced funding next year because funding boards can’t liquidate their reserve funds. This would be especially detrimental to CSJ who has many non-profits which would have to go without volunteers or financial support for a year.

    Anyway, just want to reiterate that this is my opinion, I obviously do not speak for any part of the University anymore

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