Legislative Council takes a hard look at the budget
This eleven-part series is an in-depth look into the 2007 University of Colorado Student Union budgeting process. Every year, UCSU is charged with distributing more than $30 million in student fees, controlling more money than any other student body in the nation. This series, running over the two-week period that the budgets sit in the hands of the Legislative Council, will explore the process, the people and the effects of the decisions made by your student leaders.
What would you do with $30 million?
While it can be hard to even wrap your head around such a large number, it represents the amount of money the University of Colorado Student Union Legislative Council will distribute between the UMC, the Rec Center, Wardenburg Health Center, and several other cost centers and student groups on campus.
UCSU Budgets 2007: CP’s 11-day Series
Part 1 | The budgeting process – How it works
Part 2 | Ups and downs – Tracking the past
Part 3 | A hardline approach – Determined council seeking 0 percent
Part 4 | Rec Center – Unscathed, but for how long?
Part 5 | UMC – Between a rock and a hard place
Part 6 | Wardenburg – Struggling to stay afloat
Part 7 | Ghosts of budgets past – Previous mistakes haunt Wardenburg today
Part 8 | A community responds – Students on their health center
Part 9 | Taking the brunt – Advocates in danger of losing their programs
Part 10 | Life changer or money waster? Controversial alcohol program on the block
Part 11 | In the public eye – Bracing for the $30 million dollar decisions
Each group and cost center is asked to come up with a budget for the next school year. After meeting with the Finance Board and presenting different scenarios, the Finance Board makes its recommendations and those recommendations are sent to Legislative Council.
This year, the council and the tri-executives have gained have asked cost centers like the UMC to take a hard look at programs and make some decisions about how useful some services are for students. One goal of the UCSU this year is to keep student fees as low as possible. While there is no guarantee that fees will not rise, the council wants student money to be used responsibly.
“We need to lead by example. If we keep our student fees low, we can go to the (CU Board of) Regents and go to the state legislature and talk about making responsible choices. We can say, look, we can fund these programs. We are doing it while being fiscally responsible. You should do the same and keep tuition low,” said Legislative Council President Joe Martinez.
This new stance comes in part from capital construction fees. When the state wouldn’t fund CU building projects, UCSU took matters into its own hands and passed legislation to raise fees to pay for the construction. While this has led to several new buildings around campus, the time has come for students to begin paying for it, which means an eventual increase of $400 in fees.
“We are trying to keep fees as low as possible. That produces a lot of hard questions. It’s been a tougher year than it has in the past. If you ask students, they might say fees are too high, but once you ask about a specific program it becomes a lot harder,” Martinez said.
Finance Board asked that cost centers include in the budget requests a “worst-case scenario,” or what would happen if they did not receive funding increases. They were also asked to look at what would happen if they didn’t get money to pay for unavoidable cost increases, or unduckables. This has caused the cost centers and UCSU to take a harder look at where the money is going and how it can be used in other ways.
“We need to look at programs and see if they are worthwhile to students. If students realized what they cost, would they still want them? Or would they want that money used elsewhere?” Martinez said.
Many scenarios being presented to the council in the upcoming weeks come with budget cuts.
“I can see the positives and negatives of forcing cost centers to come up with these scenarios. I think the initial intent was to have the cost centers take a hard look at their programs. Most of the budgets being presented are the minimum. Although I would love for student fees not to increase, we do have to look at what is needed. There comes a point where we need to cross that line. Student fees might stay low, but what is the cost?” asked Legislative Council Vice President Megan Canon.
The budget proceedings aren’t even halfway finished. The cost centers just met with the Legislative Council for presentations regarding their services and programs. Each individual budget will then go through two readings before being finalized. Each step allows Legislative Council to take a close look and allocate exactly where the money should be used. The budgets presented during the first reading and the final budget voted on can look completely different from one another.
“There is still a lot up in the air,” Martinez said.
Legislative Council meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the UMC. Budget hearings will be going on for the next several weeks.
Canon encourages students to come and have their voices heard.
“If students are concerned about Legislative Council or the budgets, they are more than welcome to come talk during the open forum in the meetings.”
Tuesday: Drastic funding reductions, eliminated programs – The Rec Center has survived the budget cuts, but is this permanent?
Stay tuned to thecampuspress.com for continued coverage, live blogs of the Thursday night meetings and breaking developments as they arise.