SGA discusses $2.5 million deficit, possible allocation callbacks in privilege fee budget

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Student senate acknowledged an expected budget shortfall in the privilege fee budget in their weekly meeting on Thursday. According to minute documents from the Privilege Fee Committee meeting on Monday, the deficit could be as high as $2.5 million.

Madison Brown, chair of the Privilege Fee Committee and senior in finance, presented to student senate about how decreased enrollment and the shift to online classes have affected the overall privilege fee budget.

Additionally, the budget amounts are set for each entity to receive, and the amount students pay individually is based on enrollment. As enrollment declines, the individual cost to students naturally increases, but that normal increase was halted this year as part of the university’s promise to keep tuition and fees flat to lessen the economic impact on students facing financial hardship caused by the pandemic.

The total budget, which amounts to about $16 million, funds on-campus service providers like Lafene Health Center, the Peters Recreation Complex, the K-State Student Union and Student Governing Association. (Editor’s note: Collegian Media Group, the parent organization over the Collegian, is funded in part through privilege fee allocations.)

“We are expecting that we will have insufficient funds for fiscal year [2021] … so we will be reenacting the insufficient funds clause that is in all of our privilege fee contracts,” Brown said.

The same clause was enacted at the end of the previous fiscal year in anticipation of declined enrollment on campus this fall. All entities, except SGA and Counseling Services, faced cuts to their overall allocations. In all, student senate approved a reduction of about $218,000 from the monies handed out to privilege fee receiving entities in a special meeting after the spring semester ended which took effect at the start of the fiscal year.

However, this round of cuts could look more like university callbacks, Brown said. In years when the general university budget was insufficient, it has called back dollars from budgets that were already dispersed. That’s what could be in store for privilege fee entities to varying degrees.

Per the meeting documents, some entities, like Student Legal Services, Wildcat 91.1 FM, Collegian Media Group, the Union and the Rec, could face callbacks ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent. Others, like SGA, Lafene and Counseling Services could see smaller cuts — in the ballpark of three percent to nine percent.

The annual review of entities — a scheduled cycle based on a three rotation of each entity — has been pushed back until October.

“During the month of September, we will be focusing on receiving impact statements from entity directors, reviewing those impact statements and readjusting this year’s budgets,” Brown said.

Student senate also heard an update from Thomas Lane, vice president of student life and dean of students, on the campus COVID-19 situation.

In the past few weeks, Kansas State students have been linked to at least 10 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Riley County, nine of which are centered around Greek life. Since the semester has started, local case numbers have more than doubled.

“I think we’re doing a great job with disease mitigation efforts while on campus, probably a not so great job off-campus,” Lane said. “I know as a community we have what it takes to reduce the amount of COVID cases we’re seeing. We need to wear a mask, keep social distance, avoid large parties, don’t host large parties. Those four things alone I think will bring out case count down and help ensure that we don’t have to go completely online.”

Lane appealed to SGA as the general governing body presiding over students to participate in behaviors known to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I’d ask for your help as student leaders to help get this message out and to model this behavior,” Lane said.

Next week’s student senate meeting will be held at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Students interested in attending may email speaker of the student senate and senior in political science and communication studies Nathan Bothwell at ndbothwell@ksu.edu or Kelli Farris, executive director the Center for Student Involvement, at kellifarris@ksu.edu.

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My name is Rebecca Vrbas. I’m the culture editor at the Collegian and a junior in journalism and mass communications. My hobbies include obsessing over an ever-expanding pool of musicals and cats (not the musical). I love writing because of the infinite intricacy of language, as well as its power to cultivate a sense of community through sharing experiences.