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Like governments, organizations and families around the world, the Kansas University Student Senate is trying to make do with fewer resources.
With funds falling far short of what was available in years past, Senate members have begun looking more critically at how money is spent, Senate officials say. Student Body Vice President Emma Halling describes a “three-headed beast” behind the diminished budget.
For one, student enrollment figures have been down at the university since 2008. At the same time, past cuts to a student fee used to fund student groups and activities have reduced the money at the Student Senate’s disposal. That fee went from $19 in 2007 to $17.50 in 2009 to $15.50 in 2010.
Today it stands at $16.25 and has generated $751,400 this school year, most of it given out in blocks to big players like the University Theatre and the Hilltop Childcare Center. The money left over to spend on a per-request basis is about $50,000 this year, a third of what it’s been in years past, Halling said.
A third fiscal woe for the Senate is the savings account that rolls over every year, pooling unspent money. That account has taken a hit because of spending on projects by previous senates. This year the account contains about $83,000, well below the $150,000 that regulations require for the Senate to be able to use the money.
Among recent projects was a renovation of Wescoe beach that added lights, seating and trees to the popular campus gathering spot. The Student Senate contributed $100,000 to the project. Students like the renovations overall, but many question whether it was worth the money, Halling said.
Already this semester the Senate has funded some requests at far lower amounts than groups had requested. For example, the Jayhawk Motorsports club requested $16,000 for auto supplies. The Senate offered it $6,000 and some “encouraging words” about raising funds from other sources, Halling said.
“No one’s happy about receiving less than what they ask for, obviously,” Student Body President Marcus Tetwiler said. “But everyone has been very pleased with the process.”
Along with the activity fee funds, the Senate helps oversee the $22 million from fees that KU students pay to get access to everything from buses to health care to the recreation center. Halling said in the past there have been discrepancies between projected costs and actual costs in paying providers for these services. Halling and Tetwiler both said this year’s Senate is looking at costs for those services more critically.