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Student Budget Committee adopts policies to address budget surplus

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The Student Budget Committee has had an ongoing issue with student groups not spending the the money they apply for during the organization’s spring budgeting process, where student groups apply for the funding they need for the next year. Although student groups typically hold more events during the spring semester than the fall, it’s unlikely that they will spend the full $395,000 budget. SBC Chair Roman Shemakov said the group approved the vast majority of proposals it received during budgeting but faced difficulties getting students to plan and execute events.

Student organizations chartered by the college have only spent $70,000 so far out of the $395,000 allotted to them for the 2017-2018 school year. SBC debated putting the extra money into a capital expenditures account, which acts as a quasi-endowment, with the goal of eventually eliminating the student activities fee students pay along with tuition. To totally eliminate the fee could take 40 to 50 years.

“Last year a quarter of the funds allocated to clubs was not spent, like $120,000, and that’s mind blowing,” said Shemakov. “They approve pretty much every single proposal and very rarely say no, but the issue is that once that funding gets given to the groups they usually never spend it. That’s why we have so many capital expenditures, because every year there’s surplus and surplus and surplus.”

According to Shemakov, the problem of surplus funding is unique to Swarthmore. The budgeting director of Haverford College complained that she runs out of funding in December while SBC has enough funding to last three years, Shemakov said. The organization is looking for ways to communicate better with club treasurers so they know how to use resources to inspire their missions.

“I know that we all have work and reading and friends and the first thing on your mind usually isn’t, ‘What is my club gonna do?’ or ‘Are we going to actually do the things that we listed out during spring budgeting?’” said Shemakov. “But we want to make sure that the funds that are there for students don’t just sit in a random account in the business office.”

Olivia Robbins ’21 agreed that the the responsibility falls on student groups to make effective use of the resources provided to them. She feels that putting the unspent money into an investment account will not cause a significant decrease in future tuition cost and therefore students are responsible for spending the money so it doesn’t go to waste.

“It’s up to the students to take advantage of the money, it’s up to the clubs to take advantage of the money. Putting it into an investment account will not impact anyone in the future, so it’s just a waste of money,” Robbins said.

The group is also working on a project to provide free SEPTA tickets to student organizations who need them. This would give clubs a way to schedule trips off-campus without having to rely on the random lottery, Dean’s Office or the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility which provide tickets only for selective purposes.

SBC aims to make itself more sustainable, so that it can run smoothly from year to year despite the turnover of committee members.

“SBC should be able to survive outside of the people that are in there year to year, because we’ll just keep leaving,” said Shemakov. “It shouldn’t depend on the person that comes in, whether they’re bad or good; it should be a well-oiled machine.”

SBC will move its proposal office online this year so that students don’t have to physically deliver their proposals during spring budgeting.

Shemakov acknowledged that one of SBC’s main goals for the semester is to encourage student groups to plan events and spend more money. Until student groups plan events and make proposals, opportunities will be wasted.

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