During the 2017-18 school year, Undergraduate Student Government Tempe was responsible for appropriating $2,485,011, according to documents given to The State Press by USGT.
Only USGT's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget is posted online. The State Press requested a copy of the enacted budget for that year. The proposed budget online accounts for $111,000 less than the enacted budget summary report sent to The State Press because the online budget does not account for carry forward items, which are not voted on by the senate, USGT President Brittany Benedict said. Carry forward items use surplus money from the previous budget cycle.
USGT's nearly $2.5 million budget is split into seven general categories: policy, carry forward, appropriations and senate, Office of the President, services, salaries and fees and transfer out.
In the policy realm are items like civic engagement and education ($18,000) and state and national affairs ($5,000).
The appropriations and senate category is the largest of the budget, with more than $870,000. These funds are distributed to on-campus clubs through the appropriations committee, which also designated $75,000 for travel grants to individual students who can use the money to attend conferences and competitions.
The Office of the President was budgeted $348,890, money which was allocated to items such as a banquet ($3,500), conference attendance ($4,000) and a retreat ($3,840). USGT spent $50,000 on public relations and $36,500 on fall welcome t-shirts. The largest single budget item, other than general and transferred club appropriations, was the fall welcome concert, which received $220,000 — almost as much money as was allocated for all USGT salaries and fees.
The $36,500 spent on t-shirts was a new expense in this year's budget. Last year, no money was spent on t-shirts, according to budget documents. The president’s office also runs an internship program, for which it allocated $1,000.
Expenses covered by the services section include $10,000 for sexual violence education and prevention programming and $13,800 for a proposed shuttle program that would help students get to the airport.
In an email, Benedict said the 2017-18 budget reflects her administration’s priorities.
“The main things that we wanted to address to apply funding toward was our new sexual wellbeing director to give that director a line item and to give a line item to our Sky Harbor Shuttle platform,” Benedict wrote in an email. “We are currently operating with both of those successfully, so I would say they reflect two of our priorities very well.”
Benedict said in the email that she’s hoping the shuttle will be operating by summer break and didn't share any other details. The USGT website notes that USG had hoped to have the shuttle program operating by spring break.
USGT spends $225,577 on salaries and fees. A portion of this money is used to pay salaries for USG senators ($33,050), safety escort drivers ($27,000), bike co-op employees ($32,520) and USG directors ($7,500).
USGT transferred $805,208 to other student activities organizations, including the Programming and Activities Board ($463,208) and the Sports Club Association ($240,000). PAB uses the money to host events like the Devilpalooza concert, which was most recently headlined by T-Pain.
USG campaigns are an opportunity for students to get a better idea of what the next generation of USG leadership is interested in spending money on. USG elections will be held March 27 and 28.
This year there is only one ticket running in the USG Tempe election — Allison Sorgeloos for president, Logan Miller for vice president of services and John Gimenez for vice president of policy.
Both Sorgeloos and Gimenez currently serve as senators on the appropriations committee, and they said some of their administration's key priorities would be fiscal accountability and affordability.
In order to promote accountability and transparency in the budget process, Gimenez and Sorgeloos said they will work to create an interactive USG budget on their website.
Sorgeloos and Gimenez said this interactive budget would help students keep track of the specific events or initiatives on which USG spends its money. Sorgeloos said this is an important step in providing context for vague or nondescript items — like “state/national affairs” and “civic engagement and education” — on the budget.
“It provides accountability for us in making sure that we’re spending our money to the best of our ability, and really putting on events that students are coming to, investing our money in things that students are interested in,” Sorgeloos said.
Sorgeloos and Gimenez said that the uncontested nature of the elections gives their ticket a unique opportunity to use the campaign period to engage directly with students.
“We’re looking at the current USG budget and we’re saying, ‘Traditionally, USG has been awarded this amount of money; traditionally, this is what the line items look like,’ and we’re going up to students in the next two weeks and asking them, ‘How does that sit with you?’” Gimenez said.
Sorgeloos and Gimenez said that as candidates and USG leaders, it was their responsibility to engage students directly in the budget process.
“We should be going to the students and asking them. We shouldn’t be making the students come to us,” Sorgeloos said. “We want to show students exactly how (the student fee) is working for them.”
Students on all campuses are often in the dark about the USG budgetary process. Jade Yeban, vice president of services for USG Downtown, said USGD tends to get very few questions from students about how their fees are spent, but that the organization is working to help educate students about the services the student fee allows it to provide.
“We try to be as transparent as possible, just no one really asks,” she said.
Correction: A previous version of the subhead incorrectly stated that the yearly student fee is $30. The article has been updated to reflect the accurate fee.