While many groups have been denied requests for additional funding, more than $800,000 in unspent funds for student clubs has accumulated in university reserve accounts.

The extra funds are sitting in the reserve accounts of six advisory boards: the Student Activities Commission, Georgetown Program Board, Media Advisory Board, Performing Arts Advisory Council, Center for Social Justice Advisory Board and Advisory Board for Club Sports. The accounts are meant to cover losses in the event that a student organization it funds runs a deficit.

As of February, SAC had $250,006 in reserve funds, the largest amount of the six boards. The media board had the second-largest balance with $220,000. Club sports held the smallest balance with only $15,441.

any club leaders have been looking for increased funding from their respective boards in the past years while $800,000 has accumulated in reserves without being allocated for use.

“It is a major issue when that much money is tied up and things do go unfunded,” said Zack Bluestone (SFS ’09), chair of GUSA’s Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. “The funding boards do need reserves. But not all of them need as much as they have right now.”

According to Erika Cohen-Derr, director of student programs, there are a number of reasons contributing to the high reserve funds.

“It’s just the reality of budgeting,” she said. “If organizations are not coming up with programs deemed worthy of funds, then a funding board might not allocate the money.”

Sometimes boards allocate money to a certain event, but if the event never takes place, the allocated money is returned, Cohen-Derr said.

Eden Schiffmann (COL ’08), speaker of the student association’s senate and former member of THE HOYA’s Editorial Board, said that the senate is concerned with the relatively high amount of reserves.

“A lot of money is just sitting around, and it can do a lot of good,” Schiffmann said. “It is our firm belief that this amount of money should not be allowed to sit in these accounts.”

The GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee plans to meet with the six advisory boards on Wednesday to develop a budget to appropriate funds to the boards for the upcoming academic year.

Cohen-Derr said the meeting will center around developing a strategy that addresses the reserve fund balances.

“Everybody knows this is a high priority to address,” she said.

“The senate will not pass any budget without solving the reserve funds,” Schiffmann said. “The number-one issue is to make sure student finances are on track.”

Schiffmann said the Finance and Appropriations Committee has requested that each of the six boards complete a proposal, to be turned in during Wednesday’s meeting, explaining whether the respective board should or should not spend its reserves.

GUSA has been considering a number of solutions to reduce the size of the reserve funds.

“We’re looking at having the reserve boards spend it down. Where there have been cutbacks in the past, they can spend more, or they can spend more on capital,” Bluestone said.

Schiffmann said that some ideas include having a central reserve for all six of the boards or even putting money in the underperforming student activities endowment.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but everyone agrees something has to be done,” he said.

After the student body voted to pass the Accountability and Reform Amendment in October 2006, GUSA was given full audit and control powers over the Finance and Appropriations Committee.

In January of each year, the Finance and Appropriations Committee, which consists of seven GUSA senators and six external advisors, develops a budget that appropriates funds to the six advisory boards for the next fiscal year, which begins and ends in June. At Wednesday’s meeting, the committee plans to pass a budget, and on April 14, the GUSA Senate is slated to vote on the proposal.

Upon approval, the funds are turned over to the six advisory boards represented on the committee, which then allocate the funds to Georgetown student organizations.

“Sometimes the budget gets tight,” said Laurance Cosper (SFS ’09), vice president of the Muslim Students Association. “I think that money that SAC doesn’t use in the reserve should then be spread out to different programs.”

The Georgetown University College Democrats usually gets the funding it needs, according to its president, Adam Feiler (SFS ’09). Feiler added, though, that he does not believe that SAC needs such a large balance in the reserve account.

“We have a good relation with SAC and [it] usually meets all of our needs and obligations for financing our events,” Feiler said. “It is a difficult thing to understand why there is a large surplus. We understand, but we respectfully disagree.”

2008 is not the first year that the different boards have accumulated large reserve funds. In June 2004, SAC had more than $180,000 and the total has continued to grow since then, reaching $276,711 in June 2007.

“This issue comes up from year to year,” Cohen-Derr said. “This is the first year we are dedicating more to this problem.”

Chairpersons of advisory boards with larger reserve funds said they are going to try to reduce the amount of reserves.

SAC Chair Sophia Behnia (COL ’09) said SAC dipped into its reserve fund to take out $40,000 this year after over-allocating funds but that the amount of money in the reserve fund is still quite significant.

“We do need to work to spend it down,” she said.

SAC plans to spend some reserve money remodeling SAC’s Leavey Center offices, she said, as well as build more storage for different SAC programs.

According to Molly Keogh (SFS ’08), chair of the CSJ advisory board, the center has been trying to spend down its reserve, but has been unable to do so.

“In the past year, we have spent [reserve funds] on training of groups, sending student leaders to conferences,” she said. “CSJ has had, at least for the last year and a half, a plan for spending the contingency fund.”

Records indicate that the board’s reserve total has taken a recent dip starting in June 2007 after increasing every year from 2003 to 2007. Keogh added that, considering its rapid expansion in recent years, the board will be able to spend its reserve funds and reach the target reserve amount of $77,000. As of February, the account held $140,630.

But some chairpersons of advisory boards with smaller reserve funds felt differently.

GBP Chair Jackie Mendez (SFS ’09) said that the board’s $47,509 reserve account balance is necessary in case of emergencies.

“Costs are rising, so GPB needs more money to catch up,” she said, indicating that hosting a concert currently costs at least $50,000. “We definitely hope to get more [appropriated money],” she said.

The Advisory Board for Club Sports has been running short on funding, according to Chairman-Elect Nick Calta (COL ’10). As the youngest board, created in 2003, it has $15,441 in a reserve account. Schiffmann said, though, that GUSA has tripled the funding for club sports.

“We are always close to running a deficit,” Calta said. “We’re trying to build our reserve. It is much smaller than it should be.”

Fr. Eric Zimmer, S.J., who serves as chair of the Media Advisory Board, and Ron Lignelli, managing director of the Program in the Performing Arts, declined to comment.

– Editor’s Note: The original version of this article was posted on April 3, 2008 at 5:15 a.m.

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