MSA budget passes for fiscal year 2016

The Missouri Students Association’s $1.6 million budget passes while improving the relations with Senate and the executive cabinet.

The Missouri Students Association passed their $1.6 million budget for the 2016 fiscal year in full Senate Wednesday, April 8.

The budget passed with no votes in negation and two abstentions from Budget committee chairman Bill Vega and Operations committee chairman Dan Patterson.

“I feel very relieved that the budget passed with minimal speed bumps,” Vega said.

The major dissent made during the first, second and final reading of the budget was Craft Studio’s funding. In the 2015 budget, the Craft Studio received $12,000. In the newly passed 2016 budget, the studio will receive $9,000.

A major goal of both MSA Vice President Brenda Smith-Lezama and Vega was making sure the limited amount of money stretched the furthest by prioritizing organizations’ needs first and cutting funds from organizations that could generate their own revenue.

Smith-Lezama and Vega said they decided to cut the Craft Studio’s funding because it has the ability to recuperate funds by bringing in its own revenue, unlike other auxiliaries that MSA funds, Vega said.

By the end of the 2015 fiscal year, the Craft Studio reported $40,000 in revenue. Their revenue, plus $12,000 in MSA funding comes to a grand total of $52,000, which was used as a benchmark for a sustainable amount by Smith-Lezama, Vega and the budget committee, Vega said.

Smith-Lezama and Vega allocated only $9,000 to the Craft Studio because Kelsey Hammond, the director of the Craft Studio, projected $46,500 in revenue. Their revenue plus MSA funds would total to $55,500, which is $3,500 more than this year.

The projected revenue is higher for next year than this year because the Craft Studio failed to secure a sorority bid day event this past year that would’ve earned them $6,000.

“I am really confident that $9,000 is a good number,” Smith-Lezama said. “(The Craft Studio) is one of the auxiliaries that can recoup that money unlike many others, so I feel very comfortable.”

However, before the budget passed, Secretary of Auxiliaries Chris Hanner spoke out urging senators to increase the Craft Studio’s funding.

In his speech, he proposed reallocating funds to pay Senate committee chairs toward the Craft Studio, which would increase its funding from $9,000 to $12,000.

In the second reading of the budget on April 1, Hanner made a speech in negation toward an amendment proposed by senator Zach Harris to cut the Craft Studio’s funding by $2,000 reducing it to $7,000. This amendment did not pass.

Senate Speaker Kevin Carr said he didn’t think this amendment would pass since the Craft Studio is responsible for its own decrease in revenue this year.

“The Craft Studio admitted in meetings it was entirely their fault (for not bringing in $6,000), so it’s hard to justify funding when they themselves don’t put out the effort to get the necessary projects to make them successful,” Carr said. “Many people in Senate are skeptical of giving them money if they’re going to blatantly miss opportunities that would benefit them and provide them with a great source of revenue.”

The Craft Studio was an unexpected challenge in the budget process, Smith-Lezama said.

“This is people’s livelihoods and their passions, so it’s understandable that people want to fight so incredibly hard to get that money that they think they deserve,” Smith-Lezama said. “However, I think that the Craft Studio is somewhat of a luxury. I have to look at what students proved they wanted through their attendance and their outspokenness. There’s no way I can make every person happy, but this situation specifically is a little more difficult than I had anticipated.”

Despite this challenge, Carr and Vega both noted this year’s budget process went smoother than last year because there was cooperation and transparency between the vice president and the Senate.

“The process was especially turbulent (last year) because it was seen by many senators as an attack on MSA Senate,” Carr said. “The budget was handed down from the executive cabinet with little cooperation. This year went wonderfully smooth, and we have to thank very cooperative people and the relationship that MSA Executive Cabinet has strived so hard to build this year.”

The relationship Smith-Lezama and Senate built during the budget process was the most rewarding part, Smith-Lezama said.

“The administration wanted to bridge the gap that there has been for a long time between Senate and executive cabinet, and we really have accomplished that thus far,” Smith-Lezama said. “Senators felt they were heard, their opinions mattered, and they could come to me with any issues or concerns they had. A lot of the decisions I made were guided by the opinions of the Senate as well as my own.”

Smith-Lezama also worked closely with Vega and the budget committee to grow their relationship.

“(Vega) and I went from being strangers to friends, which is not something I expected because, in the past, the budget committee butted heads with the vice president,” Smith-Lezama said. “Bill and I didn’t always agree with the decisions that I made but at the end of the day he understood my position, I understood his, we discussed our opinions and the decisions (were) made.”

Vega also said Smith-Lezama’s collaborative work and transparency with the budget committee was beneficial to MSA.

“Brenda is very open to suggestions and very cooperative,” Vega said. “She doesn’t make decisions blindly. She takes into account both sides of the argument. While she does formulate her own opinions she also is open to suggestion so I feel like that’s definitely a characteristic that’s extremely useful in her position.”

Allocating students’ money was an important yet challenging task for Smith-Lezama. By being more transparent throughout the budget process, students can be more informed about where their money is being spent.

“Because these are student fees, it’s really crucial for students to know they have the right to voice their opinion and they’re opinion does matter,” Smith-Lezama said. “At the end of the day, I work to serve the students and the decisions I make and the budget should be representative of what the students want.”

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