S.A. defends budget as valid, proposes tier reforms

The Student Association budget passed last Tuesday will stand as valid, said sources inside S.A.

According to S.A. President Jon McDonald, the vote is valid because Senate had a quorum, 12 senators present. After the call to question is made, a vote must immediately follow, leaving no window to make a call for quorum, McDonald said.

"The first point that he could recognize quorum was after the vote," McDonald said. "Once you enter into a vote you can’t exit unless you complete it."

Senator Mike Pany, who left Senate before the vote took place, voted on the call to question, Vice President Nate Hemmes said. Eight senators voted yes, while four voted no. Hemmes announced the vote, Pany left and Senator Adrian Ramierez called a question of quorum.

"[One of] the two only times I cannot recognize a call of quorum is during a vote," Hemmes said.

If the vote to end the debate had failed, the budget bill would have remained up for discussion. If Pany had walked out before the call to question, a call of quorum could have been recognized and the budget could not have been voted on.

Senate’s procedures are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, which govern how meetings should run. In S.A.’s bylaws, it is stated that a minimum of 12 senators are needed to conduct business.

"Generally, when you say you need 12 people to conduct business, quorum is taken a roll call in the beginning of a meeting and then quorum is established when the meeting is held," Chair of the finance committee Kris Brandow said. "After the vote we stopped business until we did have quorum again."

At Senate Tuesday night, McDonald addressed Senate about the passage of the budget.

"From my understanding there were senators who did not feel comfortable with the budget presented as it was and how the budget was passed," McDonald said. "I recognize that there is no such thing as perfect, especially regarding this budget. No matter what we do we’re a student organization that has over 150 groups. There’s always going to be someone who feels like they’re being left out in the cold and we’re doing our best to make sure that the majority benefits."

Dean of Student Affairs James Scharfenberger, who serves as an adviser to S.A., offered his insight about the budget process.

"I think each year some Senates are better at it than others in terms of organizing the process so that organizations get their shot and senators get their shot and both thoses shots happen before the last night," Scharfenberger said. "One of the things that I think they we should concentrate on is to make sure that we are satisfied that the process gives us the opportunity as senators to ask the appropriate questions and make appropriate decisions. The process is fine. The issue is that we have to focus our attention on when we can make suggestions and corrections."

Former President Steven DiMarzo said he was dissatisfied in the way Senate acted at the end of the budget process.

"I am disappointed in the lack of professionalism and responsibility during the final stages of the budget process," DiMarzo said.

In response to the issues encountered with this year’s bugdet, at Tuesday night’s meeting, reforms to the current finance policy were proposed for next year in order to streamline the process. One change is the combination of charters and budget requests handed in at the same time, Brandow said.

Another part of the proposal aims to shorten the budget process. Currently, the budgeting begins at the end of October when organizations hand in charters and ends mid-April when the budget is voted on.

"We shortened it down to starting in basically right when we get back from winter break in January until right before Spring Break in March," Brandow said. "I think it’s going to aid in making things run much smoother because right now they hand in a charter and don’t hear anything for months until January rolls around when they hear whether or not their charter is accepted."

The new timetable would allow Budget Council to convene in mid-February, pushing up the time when recommendations are released to mid-March, Brandow said. After the budget is sent to Senate, it will be voted on during the sixth Senate meeting of the spring semester, which Brandow estimates will be the second Tuesday of March.

"That way if we do have problems like we did this year instead of having one or two weeks to fix the issue, we’ll now have a month and a half to two months to fix it," Brandow said.

If passed, the proposal would eliminate tier statuses, which Brandow said have become ineffective.

"An effective tier system is one in which tiers have value and meaning so that they actually define something about your organization," Brandow said. "Our tier system has basically been dissolved into a series of steps you take over a period of time so it’s not, well you have your Tier III because you actually need that amount of funding. In the past, you’ve been Tier III just because you’ve been around long enough to be Tier III so we over the years kind of deconstructed what tiers really were."

There will still be a period when first semester organizations will not have a budget and then will be capped at $2,500, Brandow said.

Currently, if an organization hands in a budget late, they dropped down a tier status. However, under the new proposal, organizations who turn in their budget a day late will receive a 10 percent deduction on their current year budget limits the amount of funding they can obtain the following academic year.

"The 10 percent is also to make sure that the budget process keeps moving so we decided that instead of just saying it’s due this day, we’ll accept budget requests between the Monday that classes start and then the following Monday and then we’ll still accept late ones after that to a certain point, but you’re going to get a deduction to deter you from handing it in later," Brandow said.

The proposal will be voted on at this coming Tuesday’s senate meeting, the last of the semester.