Students unsatisfied with appropriations decision, budget dangerously close to deadline
Student Body President Juan Cubillo vetoed the 2014-15 budget Tuesday night —even though a senator pointed out Cubillo did not attend any budget hearings or request minutes from any of more than two months worth of deliberations.
Senators voted 13-7 to override Cubillo’s veto, but that fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required to overturn the veto. In a statement to the senators, Cubillo said that he was not vetoing the budget with the intention of causing any tension between the legislative and executive branches.
That was little consolation to Sen. Michael Danis, former appropriations chair and sponsor of the budget, who spoke about the dedication of the appropriations committee.
“We were doing 40-hour weeks, and we came in during Christmas break to work on this,” Danis said.
When Cubillo vetoed the budget, Danis asked, “Because this is a 160-item budget, can we get a reason for each of these 160 vetoes?” Cubillo did not give specific reasons for his veto, but said, “I don’t want any organization to receive zero dollars.” The option of overturning the budget was added to the agenda for a third reading. When asked by Sen. Tyler Brown whether he had looked at any of the public records of the budget hearings, Cubillo responded that he “didn’t need to.”
“I’m looking at the results of this budget, and these organizations don’t have enough money to function,” Cubillo said.
Several senators agreed with Cubillo’s veto.Sen. Sean Kempton feels that the budget gave money to Florida Gulf Coast University departments that could instead be given to registered student organizations.
“As senators, we could take the easy way out tonight and overturn this veto and be done with the budget,” Kempton said. “I know that departments do a great thing for this University, but we need to supports our RSOs, which do so much more.”
“These organizations better our students, culture them, keep them open-minded … you’re taking passion away from people when you don’t allow them to support their basic needs,” Sen. Romana Kahvedzic said. Members of the appropriations committee that sponsored the budget defended its fairness.
“We ran a fair, clean process,” Danis said. Sen. Tyler Brown explained at last week’s meeting that there was a $2,000 cap on operations, a $7,500 cap on travel and a $7.50 per person cap on t-shirts. Travel allotments were correlated with fundraising. Several clubs that were given money last year for travel — with the understanding that members would raise funds for their RSOs this year — were given smaller budgets this year.
“We gave them money for travel and they said they would fundraise. Well, they didn’t fundraise, so why would we reward them with more money?” Danis asked.
This is the first year the appropriations committee worked off a rubric to create the budget. The rubric scored RSOs based on professionalism, fundraising projects, community outreach, cosponsoring events, utilization of budget, number of events planned and the timeliness of its budget application submission.
Last year, the budget was sponsored by then-appropriations chair Cubillo. That budget was created without a rubric, was submitted late and it heavily funded many RSOs, according to Senate President Megan Turetsky.
Many senators who supported overturning the budget did so to avoid having to rush through the creation of a new budget in an attempt to pass a budget before the Feb. 25 elections, which the finance code requires. “We need to overturn this for security, so we have a budget for next year. Right now, RSOs can put in a bill to receive more funding, and it can go through on July 1,” Danis said.
“Elections are five weeks away, we have to pass a budget before the elections,” Sen. Andrew Grillo said. “I know that there are people in this room who are looking for reelection.” Tuesday’s meeting opened with public comment by members of several clubs, including Black Student Alliance, the Food Foresters and the American Society of Civil Engineers, each of which had representation at the second hearing of the budget last week. Student Tyler Thomas noted that nonacademic clubs gained more money than academic clubs.
“For the first time, I can say that I’m ashamed of this school,” Thomas said. “I never ever want to hear a student say that they’re ashamed to be here,” Cubillo said. Current Appropriations Chair Thomas Edwards pointed out that while several clubs have attended the recent student government meetings regarding the budget, there are 170 clubs accounted for in the budget.
“Take into account that there are 170 clubs that we’ll have to look at again, that couldn’t come out tonight. If we try to pass a new budget, another eight clubs will be where you are now,” Edwards said to the clubs in attendance.
Edwards also pointed out that the appropriations committee has been available for RSOs to ask questions throughout the budget process. He gave out his email address at the last meeting in the event students had questions about their funding.
“I did not get a single email this week, so if you need the help, we’re available,” Edwards said. “But you need to come to us.”
According to Edwards, an ad hoc committee will be formed to create a new budget and attempt to pass the bill before elections, which are only five weeks away. “A budget will be proposed in time, but my concern is that it will not pass,” Brown said. If the new budget doesn’t pass, the future is unclear for Student Government. “We don’t know because this has never happened before. But you can’t not have a budget,” Turetsky said. “It is even more evident after this week’s meeting that an inadequate job has been performed by the student body president.”
EN Photo/Kelli Krebs
Student Body President Juan Cubillo, Vice President Luis Vargas and Chief Justice Michael Sudler listen during Tuesday night’s
senate meeting while Cubillo decides whether to veto the 2014-15 budget.