By: Valentina Palm/Staff Writer
The University budget split between the Modesto Maidique Campus and the Biscayne Bay Campus was redistributed in budget deliberations held Tuesday, Feb. 12. The Student Government Council at MMC received 80 percent while the council at BBC received 20 percent of the $3.5 million total from Student Government Association funds.
Every spring semester, Student Government Councils from both campuses meet to determine funding for student organizations that are University-wide and campus specific, including Student Media.
This year, SGC-BBC received its third budget cut in a row. Its funding was reduced from 22.8 percent to 20 percent of the SGA funds starting fall 2019, cutting $89,000 from the previous BBC budget.
SGC-BBC was given around $700,000 from the total $3.5 million SGA funds this year.
“The cut is monumental, to be honest,” said John Habib, SGC-BBC senate speaker. “We were hoping there was no way we would settle past what we got this year, and we ended up getting a cut this big. It’s almost devastating.”
Campus budget allocations are determined by the number of students enrolled and the total number of credit hours taken in each location.
The BBC campus reported decreases on both factors, according to the University’s Activity and Service Business Office.
This year, budget calculations at SGC-BBC were done differently than SGC-MMC, according to SGC-BBC President Jefferson Noel.
SGC-BBC calculates their budget based off their total student headcount. In contrast, SGC-MMC calculates it based off student credit hours.
Sabrina Rosell, SGC-MMC president said this year’s distribution method was fair and that, in reality, SGC-BBC should have received only 10 percent if the calculation had been done with consideration to student credit-hour enrollment and not student headcount.
Silvana Rogelis, assistant director of finance of the ASBO, advised SGC-BBC to calculate the budget using student headcount so the council would be able to continue student events determined by campus student headcount, according to Noel.
Neither Noel nor Habib considered the credit hour calculation fair as BBC’s credit hours are seen as “minuscule” compared with MMC’s and they say it does not consider their council’s efforts.
“We recognize that [the 10.2 percent] budget is literally not feasible for their campus to function, so that is why we came to the table to negotiate that 20 percent. We felt it was a very generous compromise,” said Rosell.
Rosell said that the FIU SGA Constitution limits MMC’s maximum budget to be 2.5 percent of the amount of money the campus generates from student enrollment fees.
BBC’s budget maximum is 23 percent of total SGA allocations SGC-BBC requested during budget deliberations.
“The increase should go in tandem with the enrollment,” said Rosell. “Some of our needs and our demands on [MMC] wouldn’t necessarily be able to be met because if the split is not equitable, how could we service those students at the expense of the other campus?”
Habib believes the budget cuts to SGC-BBC will affect funding for projects organized by their councils, such as their signature Lecture Series and the Haitian Student Association pageant.
“When we get pressured into lowering the amount that we receive, then it makes it harder for us to do things as a council,” said Habib.
Habib acknowledges that decreasing enrollment numbers and its consequent budget cut will negatively impact student life at BBC.
“As much as we don’t want to take away programming for Biscayne Bay students, it’s gonna have to happen,” said Habib. “When BBC enrollment is going down, and the University isn’t really helping out with that situation, any argument that we go into is always going to be a losing battle.”
Rosell said that in order to help SGC-BBC fund some of its events, under the new budget proposal, two events were placed under the University-wide budget.
“We came to [SGC-BBC] with this proposal so they could alleviate their campus specific budget, which would make the 80/20 split easier on their end,” said Rosell.
SGC-BBC expected the cut and passed a resolution one week before budget deliberations to explain the negative impact further cuts would have on the BBC council and its student body.
The council was already struggling to deliver quality programing for its students following that year’s cut, according to Noel.
“BBC decided to take the drastic approach and cut ourselves in term of budget for the benefit of University wide entities and FIU as a whole,” said Noel. “We took the approach of where we were going to suffer for the greater good.”
Habib said to Student Media that SGC-BBC lost around $250,000 in the last 2 years. He worries the trend of budget cuts to BBC will continue for following years.
“This is absolutely insane because we function as a governing council with councils that we need to be taking care of,” said Habib. “Overall, I think BBC taking another big hit is going to be the first time in FIU student government that we might not be able to provide stipend for our senators and directors.”
Rosell does not believe that SGC-BBC’s approach of cutting payments for the members of their council is the only choice they have on handling the budget cuts.
“I encourage them to be creative in how they appropriate their finances and work with their respective student groups to identify ways they can offset certain costs,” said Rosell.
Noel is optimistic that his team will work hard to figure out how to maintain BBC student programming.
“Our focus is to finish strong. We are not going to drag our feet and work around like losers. We still have a mission to complete. We still have people to serve. People who deserve an exceptional FIU experience,” said Noel.
SGC-BBC plans to partner with different University offices to create initiatives that increase student enrollment in their campus to improve future budgets.