No one wants to budge on the budget

Pat Gareau, Creative Editor

 

The Hudsonian’s budget battle

On Friday, Apr. 25, The Hudsonian found out that the Student Senate leadership would be proposing a 24 percent cut to our budget, which was scheduled to be voted on the following Monday. We were immediately concerned, and after postponing the Senate vote for one week, we entered a series of negotiations with Senate leadership.

The meetings progressed from borderline hostile to negotiable but ended with a misunderstanding that left The Hudsonian disappointed with the outcome, a five thousand dollar cut to our budget, and even more so with the process.

 The Hudsonian has, by far, the largest budget of any club on campus. It costs a lot of money to print a newspaper and we believe the nature of our mission warrants strong funding from the Student Senate.

Our budget this year was $51,128.95. This allows us to print 26 issues during the year, provide competitive pay for those who excel in the club and attend two journalism conferences. A strong newspaper on campus has a positive effect on all student activities as we seek to inform the student body and provide free advertising to any club.

Our original budget request included a five percent increase after having run into some financial difficulties during this year and being forced to make cuts to accomodate.

The initial proposal from Student Senate leadership was $38,000, which would put our ability to produce a quality paper in jeopardy. A cut of $13,000 seemed obviously outrageous to us, and the entire tone of negotiations started off on the wrong foot.

“From the information we had, it was not unrealistic. Once we learned more, we adjusted the number,” said Student Senate President Jesse Tilley. “It was never our intention to cripple The Hudsonian. Just to boost fundraising and spend wisely.”

Over the course of three meetings, we explained how major cuts would diminish the quality of the paper and the Senate raised their proposal to $40,000 then $42,000. Eventually, on Friday, an offer was put on the table to agree at $47,000.

We responded by asking for a thousand more, $48,000 and expected to hear a response. After hearing no response, we were under the impression that the Senate leaders would come to the meeting with a proposal of $45,000 to be voted on and we would propose the same budget we have this year, having retracted our requested increase.

 At the Senate meeting on Monday, we found that there had been considerable misunderstandings surrounding our discussion on Friday. Where we expected a response to our offer of $48,000 and a possibility for further negotiation, they interpreted it as a final offer that if not accepted required no response. Where we thought they had agreed to a $45,000 proposal to bring to the Senate on their side, they had the understanding that they would be proposing $42,000 if a deal were not reached.

“I agree there were probably was some misunderstanding. We thought we made it clear that [47 thousand] was a stretch for us,” said Tilley.

On Monday, we entered the Senate meeting up against a proposed $9,000 dollar cut to our budget with our proposal being the same as we had last year.

After making our case, the Senate voted to enact a $46,000 budget for The Hudsonian next year.

Aside from the difficulties in communication throughout the process, we also felt there was some suspect reasoning in proposing the cut itself.

First, there was no financial strain on the Student Activities budget that would prompt any cut at all. Club funding for 2014 is being budgeted at $127,000, an increase of $7,000 from last year.

Second, we felt unfairly singled out. The primary argument in play from the Senate side was that our fundraising is weak as it relates to our overall budget, which is unacceptable for a club that is such a large portion of total club funding.

Meanwhile, three of the other five highest funded clubs have combined to spend only $2,894 out of $14,204 budgeted to them this year as of Apr. 28. One might think this would lead to consideration of decreased funding, but each were funded at the same level as last year.

In addition to other clubs also having room for possible cuts and not being scrutinized, the argument that low fundraising is reason for less Senate support is a dangerous precedent. Applied across the board, that logic could potentially further weaken clubs that are valuable and already suffering from fundraising struggles.

Third, there was a clear sentiment that some in the Student Senate simply believed The Hudsonian staff gets paid too much and that is cause enough to cut our budget, despite the fact that they had recently approved our constitutional pay rates previously.

 “I think stipends is the big thing that really bothers me about the whole thing,” said Josh Feldman, Senior Class President.

Going forward

Although frustrating, this process was a learning experience that may benefit The Hudsonian, the future student government and all student organizations.

We did come to recognize that the leaders in Student Government made good points. The Hudsonian can try to fundraise more. It is advantageous to be more self sufficient and not be overly dependant on student government.

We did concede that we can maintain quality with a smaller budget. We were ready to agree to $48,000, would have taken $47,000 if turned down, and with $46,000 will be able to manage despite the challenge of closing the gap.

In a time of fiscal stress in governments and households nationwide, recognizing the value of frugality as students is important. Especially with public money, funding needs to be requested, allocated and spent with extreme care.

 A student government that seeks to trim costs and thus save the students money without diminishing quality should be applauded. I would urge future administrations to be willing to make tough decisions to increase efficiency and maximize each dollar. Doing so will benefit students in the form of possibly curbing the rise in the activities fee, just as governments being serious about this approach means lower taxes.

But, if cuts are to be made they must be done consistently. The Hudsonian is certainly not the only club on campus that can try to maintain quality with a lower funds, and unspent money is present throughout the larger Student Activities budget.

Attempting to save public money by cutting someone’s funding is always difficult. No one will want to budge on their budget. A major hurdle in our negotiation process was the lack of a developed relationship during the year. Things would have never been so contentious had we been working closely with the Senate on any of their concerns much earlier.

An established relationship would allow for honest discussions from a mutual understanding, as opposed to numerical maneuvering to create a false sense of compromise.

The Hudsonian, the Student Senate, and all other clubs would benefit from collaborating more. With familiarity of the clubs and its members any tough decisions will be smoother and during normal times interclub cooperation can only enhance student life on campus.

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