Budget Increase Passes, Setting Tone for SBP Race
Last week the motion to increase the student activity fee by $25 per semester passed 149-107. Proposed by Student Body President Reese Evans (‘16), the new increase will expand next year’s council budget by $28,500. President Evans promoted the increase as a way to improve the quality of community on campus.
There is not yet a clear plan as to how that money will be allocated. Evans hopes that $4,000 of those funds will go to Spiritual Life for new projects and a stipend for the new director and $1,000 to the Director of Communications. The remaining funds (in addition to any rollover from this year’s council) will be used to cover the cost of the 70-80 new students joining King’s, support houses and organizations, and fund school-wide events.
The increased budget will shape the tone of upcoming SBP elections. Candidates will need to explain how they might allocate the extra money, taking into account the increased costs facing the Council as well as pleas for more money from house presidents, the school’s events committee and student organization leaders.
Helen Healey (‘17), President of the House of Margaret Thatcher, said more funds would help houses create better experiences, especially for freshmen.
“The argument is not, ‘with more money comes a better house,’” she said. “The argument is, ‘with more money comes a better experience for our freshmen.’” As an example, she told me how her team ran out of food at last year’s NSO dinner because of funds shortage. These events, she explained, are important because, “they foster buy-in from the house.”
Mary Losiak (‘16), Director of Student Events, explained how the cost of running events well has increased in comparison to previous years. For example, the cost of renting the Ice Rink at Brookfield Place increased from $1,000 in 2014 to $2,400 this year. Meanwhile, the money allocated for Spring Formal has decreased by $6,000 over the last six years, while attendance has increased: In 2012, 240 students attended and the committee ran off a budget of $19,000. Last year, the number of attendees jumped to 360, while the budget was cut by $3,000.
The new SBP will also have to consider the rapid growth of student organizations. Since 2009, the number of organizations has more than doubled from seven to sixteen, while the budget has decreased. This year, leaders from sixteen student organizations asked for more than $35,000 from the Council; the budget allotted to them only $9,465.
In last week’s Town Hall meeting, several organization leaders pitched new ideas to the audience, in an effort to explain why they need more money. Dean Graham presented a case for more funds for printing TKC’s literary magazine, The Troubadour, in hard copy; Nick Gulley, the director of TKC’s swing-dancing club, asked for funding for safety mats; and Amy Diestler, the director of the long-running King’s Dancers, asked for money for rehearsal mirrors.
Which organizations are funded and how, will require careful deliberation by the new president. Annalise Bourgeois (‘16), Director of Student Organizations, said she hopes the next SBP will carefully consider the reality of rapid student org growth by assessing each organization’s past performance, current goals, and the ways they add to value to King’s. In addition, she said the organization committee at King’s could benefit from more tangible guidelines to support leaders and maintain spending accountability.
Caroline Ratcliffe (‘17) said she’d like more transparency overall: “I think...there needs to be a clear presentation as to how these funds are going to tangibly benefit or detract from [our] individual experience.”
Evans was pleased with the voting results but recognizes the new budget is out of his control.
“I can’t say what happens with the money,” said Evans. Responsibility, he added, lies with the students to elect someone who is “fiscally responsible.”
Campaigning for SBP begins next week; student body presidential elections take place February 22-23.
Corrections: Per request, the title "TKC Troubadour" changed to "The Troubadour."