Insufficient funds legislation passes in Student Senate

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On Thursday, Nov. 4, the Student Senate passed the insufficient funds legislation to recall over $1.6 million from K-State entities and transfer over $476,000 from bond surplus funds. These measures will help eliminate a deficit of $2.1 million in the student services fee budget for fiscal year 2022.

Those K-State entities affected by the legislation will have to return their specified amounts by Dec. 1, 2021.

Blake Phillips, junior in operations and supply chain management and management information systems, serves as the speaker of the Student Senate. He said little debate occurred before the vote.

“We had a lot of discussion outside of senate, as well, with people,” Phillips said. “Within the office, people would come in and ask me questions … As far as directly on the Senate floor, there wasn’t any debate in the negative.”

Max Harman, senior in biochemistry, is the Student Services Fee Committee chair. He said the amount of funding recalled from each entity is different based on their impact statements and the individual entity’s size.

“That’s something that I really appreciate is that there could just be this flat process of, ‘Cool, this is the deficit, what’s the average across every entity? Boom, we’re taking that money back,'” Harman said. “How our current process works, there’s a lot more intentionality and effort to getting those decisions right per entity.”

Harman said the student service fee is a fee of $465.48 paid by all full-time undergraduate and graduate students taking courses on or through K-State’s Manhattan campus. SGA then allocates those funds to K-State entities and organizations based on the budgets they produce every three years.

He also said the deficit stems from two primary sources.

“Due to enrollment decline, that’s approximately causing about $1.5 million of that budget decrease of that deficit,” Harman said. “The other half a million of that $2 million deficit this year is caused by a decrease in what students are paying into the fee, and that was part of passing the new budget model.”

Harman said in previous years, the student services fee could change based on enrollment numbers. However, he said the Kansas Board of Regents capped the fee at the current amount. With that cap, he said students are paying about seven dollars less this year compared to this past year despite lower enrollment.

“That’s a win for student affordability, for decreasing the overall cost for the fee per student,” Harman said. “That’s a point of sunshine, but that also means there’s less money flowing into the fee for the entities.”

Michael Dowd, senior in animal science and global food systems leadership, serves as the Student Body President. He said understanding what has led to the deficit is important.

“The big thing is acknowledging that we are operating at a lowered capacity compared to previously,” Dowd said. “We have seen the fee increase about $100 since 2012 as far as per student payment. I think that’s really notable and something that we need to acknowledge because our enrollment, as a lot of us know, has declined since 2015.”

While enrollment has gone down, Dowd said the amount of money allocated to K-State entities has not.

“Our revenue source has gone down, total cost per student has gone up and the total allocation hasn’t really changed,” Harman said. “So, our total debts have not gone down, our total revenue has gone down, and we’re not allowed to increase that fee anymore because [the Kansas Board of Regents] has been very rigid on that.”

Once it became necessary to initiate the insufficient funds process, Phillips said entity directors were notified of the student services fee recall.

“Entity directors then had 10 business days to get back to us with what we call impact statements,” Phillips said. “These are asking for an estimate from entity directors where if X percent of your budget were to be called back, what would be the impacts of that?”

Dowd, Harman and Phillips then worked on drafting legislation to present for the Student Senate based on those impact statements.

“After those 10 business days were up, Michael, Max and myself sat down for so many days in a row and just went through those,” Phillips said. “We had our goal in mind of how much we needed to decrease the budget by in order to get it back in balance. So, just looked at each entity, looked at the impacts of that, and determined callback levels from there.”

Administration and the Student Services Fee Committee then approved the legislation before being voted on in the Student Senate.

While the insufficient funds process will help balance the budget for this fall, Harman said it is a short-term goal to balance the budget for this year.

“You can think of this insufficient funds process as the short-term remediation. We have all of this money allocated out to entities, and that needs to rebalance to adjust for enrollment decline and the decreased fee,” Harman said.

Harman also said the Student Services Fee Committee is working on long-term budgets for K-State entities.

“The long-term work of how that should normally work is over the three-year review cycle process of entities coming in and doing their normal reviews … The committee is doing their long-term work right now to decrease some of those budgets longer-term,” Harman said.

Dowd said he, Harman and Phillips understand the gravity of the legislation they presented to the Student Senate.

“The big thing for me is that this is heavy stuff,” Dowd said. “These are not decisions that can be taken lightly. Between Max, Blake and myself, we tried to really, really remind ourselves during every conversation that these are decisions that affect our students and our peers.”

Despite the difficulties, Dowd said the decisions were necessary while they drafted the legislation.

“We also realized that we might not be able to have any of the funding in total if we don’t make those tough decisions right now,” Dowd said.

Interested parties can read the legislation and watch the Student Senate meeting from Nov. 4 by visiting the Student Governing Association’s website.

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