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SGB gets more flexibility with their funds with new Formula Group status

SGB gets more funding flexibility

Max Kneis discusses finances at Tuesday's Student Government Board meeting. | William Miller, Senior staff Photographer

With a new classification, Pitt’s Student Government Board will now have more funding and more flexibility with the funding it receives each year.

Previously, SGB was categorized as a Student Affairs Affiliated Group, which included seven other groups campus-wide, including Resident Student Association, Black Action Society and the Nursing Student Association.

As a SAAG, SGB members would draft and propose a budget at the start of the fiscal year in January. This effectively forced the next Board to wait until January of their term to make any of their own additions to the budget and caused funding restraints for previous Boards. Now, SGB will be categorized as a Formula Group.

With a classification of Formula Group, each new Board could make a budget to meet their own needs at their first retreat of the term in May. Unlike previous years, the new status could allow SGB more financial flexibility if a new idea or issue arises.

As a Formula Group, SGB will now receive 2 percent of the Student Activities Fee each year, or roughly $56,000 in funding this year. Last year, as a SAAG, SGB received 1.21 percent of the Student Activities Fee, according to SGB President Natalie Dall.

According to the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, the Student Activities Fee is currently $160 per student –– totaling more than $2.8 million.

SGB arrived at its new funding sum by averaging its budgets from the past five years.

By reclassifying as a Formula Group, both SGB’s term and funding begins at the start of the fall semester. In October 2014, the SGB passed a referendum changing the term length of its members from a calendar year to a school year.

“If you had an idea in the fall, it might have to wait until spring,” Rohit Anand, vice president and chief of the cabinet, said. “We just might not have been able to get funding.”

The funding determines what events SGB can support each year and how many initiatives they can work on. If the budget does not cover all the costs, SGB applies for grants and gets other funding like any other student organization.

The current board drafted their budget this summer and plans to have it approved within the first couple weeks of the semester. According to Vice President and Chief of Finance Max Kneis, SGB will present the new budget at the next couple of meetings.

SGB is now among several other Formula Groups — including Pitt Program Council and Pitt Serves — in working with a full time advisor to draft a budget and make financial decisions. Their advisor, Associate Dean Steven Anderson, will approve every decision and work with SGB to maximize their budget. Anderson was previously the advisor for SGB but he will now be more involved with financial decisions.

“The…advisor will see everything along with the Allocations Committee,” Kneis said. “The whole process will be more structured and official.”

The conversation about revising the status of SGB began with last year’s board members, who were well aware of the limitations it placed on their budget.

“It made a lot of things very difficult last year,” Dall said. “A lot of our ideas came in the middle of the semester.”

The previous board, under the guidance of Nasreen Harun, looked at budgets from the last five years and drew up the proposal for Formula Group status. At their initial retreat over the summer, the current board unanimously approved the proposal and submitted it to Kenyon Bonner, dean of students. Bonner approved the change over the summer.

As a SAAG, SGB relied on several different funding sources to implement new initiatives. For example, in order to get t-shirts and pizza ––  items that the Allocations Committee typically does not cover ––  for last year’s Safety Fair, SGB applied for several OCC grants. As a Formula Group, SGB will be able to rely less on other forms of funding and do more with their own budget, though they will still have to use OCC grants for food and related items.

This year, board member Joseph Kannarkat is working on an initiative called the “giving wall.” The initiative ––  which aims to create a wall in the Union where students can leave items and post pictures of things they no longer want ––  is set to open this semester. The board does not know the exact cost yet, but without Formula Group Status, Kannarkat, who was not on the Board last year and therefore not involved in the discussions about the budget, would not have been able to create his wall.

Instead of being stuck within the budget of the previous year, the Board can now decide the best way to use their budget for that particular year, Anand said.

“The biggest thing is more flexibility,” Anand said. “We can meet students’ needs sooner.”

Allocations:

The American Nuclear Society requested an allocation of $2,270.00 to attend the ANS Winter Conference for the first time. The Allocations Committee approved $1,970.80.

Pitt Club Football requested an allocation of $1,325.00 for league dues which the Allocations Committee approved in full.

Active Minds requested an allocation of $1,781.94 to attend the National Mental Health on Campus Conference. The Allocations Committee approved it in full.

Pittiful News requested an allocation of $1,485.00 to fund printing of their three fall editions. The Allocations Committee initially approved funding for one issue at $495.00, but after discussion, the Board decided to amend and approve it in full.

Chabad at Pitt requested an allocation of $1,500 for food and an honorarium. The Allocations Committee approved $1,000 for the honorarium.

The Board also appointed two new members to the Allocations Committee to fill the spots left open for first years. Ellie Bell and Cory Stillman were both appointed with an alternate not yet confirmed.

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