By Nick Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Student government senators have spent nearly a quarter of their operating budget in the first month of school, funds that are allocated for the entire year, student officials said.
Following the approval of $1,200 to send Associated Students of the University of Arizona senators to a leadership conference, the senate will have spent $1,848 of the $8,634 operating budget, according to figures provided by ASUA Treasurer Keven Barker.
The senate's beginning balance this school year was $22,042. The operating budget for senate projects is the amount left over after the senators' stipend, or salaries, are taken out, said Barker, a finance senior.
Senate spending this semester has not been without contention. In Wednesday's meeting, the senate voted 7-3 to fund $1,200 to send four senators to the Rockies Student Leadership Conference in Denver later this month.
This move has divided senators and students alike.
"I think we should send five or six people," said Sen. Patrick Cook, a pre-education sophomore. "We need the best leadership we could possibly afford."
Three of the 10 senators hold a different opinion.
"I really believe that the money could be better spent elsewhere," said Sen. Matt Boepple, a political science sophomore. "It's not like we're not going to other conferences this year."
Students like Andy Zimmerman, a computer engineering freshman, agree with Boepple.
"I think it's a little bit much to come out of that account," said Zimmerman, adding that the money could've been better spent on student activities or club funding.
"I'm not sure what I would do with it, but I wouldn't send people to a leadership conference," Zimmerman said.
Luis Vega, a pre-pharmacy freshman, said he thinks the senators should foot the bill for the conference.
"I'd rather have them pay for it if they really wanted to go," Vega said. "You want to make sure you get (the money) to everybody."
But that doesn't mean all students do not think the money is justified.
"I think it's important to improve their leadership skills by attending this conference," said Pita Salido, a former ASUA senator and political science senior. "I don't think it's a budget crisis."
Kat Navas, a general biology sophomore, agreed and said using the money for a conference is a smart decision.
"I personally thought it would be a wise investment," Navas said. "They are our leaders."
The ASUA Senate is funded by 10 percent of funds collected from a blanket student fee. This money is not closely monitored by the treasurer's office, but by the senate itself, Barker said.
"They are in charge of maintaining their own funds," he said.
Senate projects with a larger bill are funded by outside sources. The upcoming laptop loan program is expected to be funded by grants, not ASUA money.
Funds for smaller senate projects, such as the brunch with the mayor and handing out Eegee's on the UA Mall, are allocated from the operating budget.
Any leftover funds are diverted to other programs such as SafeRide or rolled over for next year, said Barker.
The $1,200 for the leadership seminar is expected to be approved in the consent agenda during the senate meeting tonight at 5 at Tucson High School.