After two previous attempts to approve this year’s budget, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly passed their final version Wednesday.
The proposed GAPSA budget was $394,628, according to an October report. The assembly tabled discussion of the budget during their September and October meetings. However, GAPSA bylaws allow an unapproved budget to serve as a working budget for the organization until it is approved, Tyler Price, vice president of finance, said.
The assembly also elected Paul Freeman, former chair of the Student Services Fees Committee who has been accused of bias against GAPSA, as vice president for grants.
In budget discussions, representatives debated stipend increases for the president and executive board. The budget increased the stipend for the president from $4,000 to $4,800 and $3,000 to $3,600 for executive board members.
Price said stipends needed to be increased to accurately reflect payments to the executive board for work completed in the summer. In previous years, board members were paid, but it was not accounted for in the stipend budget.
“To say we only work 10 out of 12 months is absurd,” he said, adding that GAPSA leadership usually takes the summer months to prepare for the year ahead.
Price said he spent the summer improving GAPSA’s financial reporting. He began looking more closely at the organization’s finances after it was accused of fraudulent reporting by a Council of Graduate Students representative.
Last year, shortly after half of the group’s student services fees funding was re-instated by Vice Provost Jerry Rinehart, Price said they realized they had a surplus of nearly $160,000.
An increase in roll-over funds, decreased expenses and discrepancies between the number of student services fees they were awarded and how many they actually received contribute to the surplus, Price said.
He said he has tried to create more transparency in the financial matters of the organization. Financial reports reflect what is written on their bank statements and are presented before the assembly.
In order to make it easier for the assembly to understand, Price re-categorized budget items and provided explanations for expenses.
He said he made far fewer changes to the structure for grants.
Kaitlin Johnson, former vice president for grants, announced that she had decided to resign from her position at their Oct. 20 meeting.
Freeman was elected to take her place, despite a bumpy history with GAPSA.
Last year, Freeman chaired the fees committee that refused to hear their late application for student service fees funding.
Freeman was a proposed member of the 2010-11 fees committee, but GAPSA removed him from the slate at their Oct. 20 meeting.
However, Freeman said he would be able to move past the history in order to join GAPSA and provide services to students.
“I have had some professional disagreements with members of the executive board,” Freeman told the assembly. “I am confident that we can work constructively toward the larger mission.”
Assembly members expressed concern over whether Freeman would be lenient in the grants application process, which is not as strict as the fees process.
Freeman said he would be able to consider situations as they arise on a case-by-case basis but emphasized his belief in enforcing policies.
“If an organization cannot have policies it feels comfortable enforcing on a regular basis, maybe that policy needs to be addressed.”
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