Amendments to the Student Government Association’s (SGA) constitution were passed on Tuesday, March 6 to promote greater fiscal responsibility among clubs in light of the recent over-expenditures to the conference budget.
The SGA offers a maximum budget of $100,000 to clubs and organizations to use for conferences each year. This budget is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis and can be used to cover the costs of airfare, hotels, food and other transportation for members of the program. For the last few years, this budget has been completely exhausted and then some. In the fall semester of 2017, it was overspent by $41,718.92.
The SGA made a series of amendments to their constitution in hopes of making the distribution of the conference budget more efficient and less likely to be depleted.
“The changes to the policy are making [sticking to the determined budget] more strict,” the SGA Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Elisha Borden (‘19) said. “Clubs now don’t have as much free space to spend money on any conference, which requires a better use of [their] funds.”
One of the major changes to determining how club conference budgets are financed is that accounts can be frozen if the necessary post-conference actions aren’t completed within 10 days after the conference.
Post-conference actions include the submission of the conference budget and all receipts from cash advances in addition to the completion of a post-conference survey.
A frozen account is defined as an account that is unable to make withdrawals or purchases. Subsequently, any account handled by the SNHU Student Government Association is able to be frozen. Five positions within SGA have the ability to freeze an account: the president, CFO, business analyst, executive director and advisor.
The freezing of an account follows a certain process. In order for an account to be frozen, one of the five authorized personnel must have just cause to freeze the account. Whichever authorized personnel requests that a budget amount be frozen will be classified as the petitioner and must submit a written request to the list of personnel authorized to freeze accounts. If the decision to freeze an account is not unanimous among all members on the list of authorized personnel, then a vote will be held on the freeze, with a majority decision having final say in the outcome.
The SGA CFO will notify the club/person responsible for the account that the account has been frozen. The SGA business analyst will be responsible for freezing the account and preventing withdrawals or purchases made from the account. Finally, the SGA executive director will be responsible to notify any additional personnel in the Office of Student Involvement that the account has been frozen.
Similar to how freezing accounts follows a process, the unfreezing of accounts also follows a certain process.
Conferences are now defined by the SGA as “a learning experience.” They must have one or more academic or educational session, panel discussion, keynote presentation or workshop to be considered for a conference request. This expands upon the previous constitution that simply states conferences “must align with the mission of the student organization” and “have definable learning outcomes for participants.” Networking is no longer considered a valid element in the approval of a conference, and all conferences must be located in the continental U.S. and Canada.
Another adjustment made to the conference budget policy is that the SGA will only be responsible for covering up to 10 percent of the total amount originally approved in overages. However, the CFO must approve this allocation. If any fluctuations in price cause the budget to exceed 110 percent of the originally approved amount, then the club must present the conference to the Budget and Finance Committee with the new budget plan.
If there is no time for the club to make a new presentation, then the club will be responsible for paying the additional funds that cannot be allocated by the SGA. This is one way to amend the SGA’s problem of having to pay for all of the overages on every conference as they were doing before.
“The main thought surrounding the changes was to provide equitable conference opportunities, but also maintain fiscal responsibility,” Director of Student Involvement and the SGA Chief Executive Officer Gavin Telfer said.
The bracketed amount of money the SGA will spend per person on conferences has shifted from a maximum of $1,500 per attendee of delegations eight or less and $800 per attendee of delegations of nine or more, according to the previous Constitution. The amount of money spent per person has now been altered to a maximum of $1,400 per attendee of delegations eight or less, $1,000 for nine to 15 people, and $600 for 16 or more, according to the approved changes cited at the meeting.
The process is “no small undertaking,” according to Telfer. “The look is more nuanced without tossing away previous method[s] completely.”