Health center’s budget proposal receives positive reviews
Wardenburg Health Center will see a final decision made on their budget proposal at next Thursday night’s Legislative Council Meeting.
Going into Legislative Council’s first budget reading on Wednesday night, faculty and students spoke positively about Wardenburg’s budget proposal and emphasized the improvement in the budget process over last year.
“The process has been a complete 180 from last year, it’s been a lot smoother,” said Lindsay Monett, a senior integrative physiology major and chair of the Wardenburg Student Health Board, the student-run group that makes all final policy and budget decisions for the health center.
During Wednesday’s reading, Legislative Council began to examine each segment of Wardenburg’s $12 million budget, a third of which is funded by student fees.
The figure includes the cost of employee salaries and benefits, medical supplies and operating and utility expenses.
The health center’s budget proposal for this year includes requests for three program enhancements: improved information technology security, increased funding for medical staff to fulfill professional continuing education requirements and development of a marketing program to increase sales of student health insurance, said Michele Van Pelt, Wardenburg’s finance director.
Students will be most impacted by the information technology enhancement, as improved computer speed will increase Wardenburg’s efficiency and will eventually allow the health center to see more patients, Wardenburg director Gary Chadwick said.
Chadwick also explained that increased marketing of Wardenburg’s health insurance plans would attract more students, and therefore increase the health center’s revenue and lessen its dependency on student fees.
After their review of Wardenburg’s budget in February, Finance Board supported the center’s program enhancement requests but recommended the use of funds from Wardenburg’s fund balance and the Supplemental Operating Reserve, which are funds left over from the previous year, to cover the enhancements, said Cate Greguras, a senior accounting major and chair of Finance Board.
Overall, members of Finance Board said they approved of Wardenburg’s budget proposal.
“From what I saw, it was a really well thought out and put together budget,” Greguras said. “What they requested was really worthwhile and important for the students.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Chadwick, Monett and several other Student Health Board members presented their budget requests to Legislative Council and fielded three short questions about the proposed marketing program enhancement. Discussion failed to continue further, and Wardenburg’s budget proposal was put aside for the night.
Last year’s process of preparing the budget for 2007-2008 was a bit of a different picture.
Chadwick said Wardenburg was already in a hole financially, forcing the Health Board to request an 18 percent increase in student fees.
He said that Wardenburg’s already high requests also clashed with the plans of Legislative Council and Finance Board to act conservatively with student fees.
Greguras agreed that last year’s budget process was particularly complicated.
“There was somewhat of a conflict between what was in the best interests of cost centers and trying to keep student fees as low as possible, which led to some issues when budgeting for Wardenburg and pretty much all cost centers,” Greguras said.
In the end, Monett said, the Student Health Board had to go through the budget multiple times to cut out expenditures in order to bring a budget to Legislative Council that would be approved.
“We met on Saturday mornings until 10 at night on several Saturdays last year,” she said. “This year is such a relief.”
Chadwick also said he is of the opinion that the budget process last year was influenced by members of Legislative Council who were trying to use their power over the budget as leverage to negotiate a Greek-friendly agenda with the department of Student Affairs.
“The budgets last year were not, in my opinion, determined on merit, but more on a political agenda,” Chadwick said.
Representative-at-large Chance Heath, a junior international affairs major and member of Pi Kappa Phi who served on Legislative Council last year, said he thinks the budget process is always political; however, the decision to lower the budget last year was what complicated the budget process, not politics.
“Anytime you decide to lower the budget, you are going to create controversy,” Heath said. “This year, there is less controversy because we are increasing the budget.”
Van Pelt also said that this year has gone more smoothly for Wardenburg especially, because the health center recently went through major reorganizations in the way it treats patients, lifting it out of the red and increasing efficiency.
Chadwick said he agreed that this year was much easier.
“We’re coming from a better starting point,” he said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Emery Cowan at email@example.com.