Members of the Graduate Student Government discussed plans to revise the GSG budget in order to address transparency issues at their first meeting of the year Monday in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
GSG President Victoria Montrose explained that there was controversy last semester surrounding the previous budget, as many believed it lacked transparency. Additionally, there were inaccuracies, such as accounting errors, in the budget, and the administration of the University made changes to GSG’s budgeting procedures that made the budget obsolete.
The biggest change proposed is the elimination of carryover funds. In previous years, GSG had been able to draw on a reserve of money comprised of funds that had gone unspent in previous semesters. This allowed GSG to allocate funds without entering budgeting for them.
The revised budget, however, will remove these loopholes, as Senators will have to account for each expense, making sure to capitalize on funds allocated to them each semester, in order to ensure there are none left over. GSG Finance Director Zachary Farbod Molarabi said that GSG was not taking these steps because of a lack of funds, and that revising the budget did not mean that GSG would not be able to afford as many activities as before.
“Please don’t be misled that we are in the Great Depression,” Molarabi said. “We just want more accountability.”
The funds going into the budget will be given to GSG at the beginning of the year, instead of breaking it up by semester. While there might be slightly less money to spend, due to funds being based on current figures of student enrollment, Montrose made assurances that the new system would alleviate stress associated with uncertainty surrounding the amount of money that would be available in the second semester.
The new budget would eliminate the accounting errors found in the April budget, as well as optimize spending by finding ways to cut back on expenses.
One way to accomplish this is through refining the language of each transaction For instance, the Senate Initiatives section of the new budget allocates $3,500 to financing individual Senator projects that may have previously been done through surplus funds. If the project is successful for a year after its inception, the GSG can vote on making it a permanent line item.
“The revised budget shows a push towards transparency and accuracy for where we’re spending our funds,” said Alaina Austel, a second-year PharmD student in the USC School of Pharmacy. “It’s really pushing towards being accountable for how we’re spending our money, and making sure it’s utilized [to the] best of its capabilities. They’re trying to detail through specific wording the rules of each committee and how much of the budget is being projected.”
The new budget still has $30,000 in funds that have yet to be purposed. Montrose proposed for these funds to be added to the Senate Initiatives section, but the final solution will be voted on before the new budget is approved.
Dylan Wilmeth, a PhD candidate in geological sciences, said that the budget is a step in the right direction for efficiently dealing with funds.
“It definitely seems that more accountability is going to be present. There is a large Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of cells,” Wilmeth said. “The budget is going to be more streamlined as well. You know where the money is going, and that’s really important.”
The meeting also included an introduction by GSG Vice President Kris Coombs, who explained his position and provided updates on the Child Grant Program, which he spearheads. Currently, the program is implementing a separate balance tracker after they ran out of funds during the summer. The program is also reimplementing adviser approval before students can receive a grant to make sure the money is being spent wisely, as well reinstating checks to make sure students have reached out to other sources for funding their research before reaching out to GSG.