SGA’s narrow vote doubles volunteerism budget

The ayes had it when members of Butler University’s Student Government Association passed a motion that doubled the volunteerism budget to $20,000 last Wednesday.

In its original plan, volunteerism made up $10,000 of SGA’s $683,822 overall budget proposal.

The original budget was calculated using numbers sent to the organization by university officials to estimate the amount of money SGA receives from the $144 each full-time student pays in activity fees each semester.

When it was discovered that the numbers had been higher than the university expected, SGA officials found themselves with nearly $20,000 unaccounted for in the budget, leaving student organization representatives to determine what efforts the money should fund.

During the Sept. 14 SGA assembly, senior Anna Roueche, representative for the Council on Presidential Affairs, motioned to increase the volunteerism budget by $4,000 to fund more volunteer efforts in the community similar to Bulldogs into the Streets.

In discussion, members of the assembly voted to table the motion until more information was available to determine how the additional money would be spent by those working in the Volunteer Center.

At the Sept. 21 assembly, associate director of the PuLSE office Julie Pakenham, who supervises the six student workers of the Volunteer Center, answered questions and explained how the Volunteer Center works within the current budget.

“We’ve been working with a university budget to pay our student workers, and we just don’t have enough,” Pakenham said. “I’ve had to cut back on hours and on the number of students who can work in the office.”

On average, Butler student workers, including Volunteer Center workers, make anywhere between $7.25 and $8 an hour.

“I would love to pay my student workers more,” Pakenham said. “I know that they work hard and deserve some extra money. With an increase, we could potentially increase their hourly wages.”

Right now, the volunteerism budget does not pay for Bulldogs Into the Streets. That event, which costs about $10,000 to fund, Pakenham said, has been paid for by a PuLSE office fund since a grant by Sallie Mae was cut.

Several members of the assembly began to whisper when a representative from Bulldogs Being Bigs made a motion to add $10,000 to the volunteerism budget, which she said could be used to add more events similar to BITS throughout the year.

“When I heard the proposal, I was floored,” Pakenham said. “That’s doubling our budget. I didn’t think it would pass.

“At the same time, we don’t intend to change our spending philosophy just because we have more money.”

Some  student  assembly members, including a representative from Phi Delta Theta, said that while SGA does have an extra $20,000 that was not in the original plan, it would be unwise to spend all of that money now.

Others, including junior Kelly Cassady, representative of the Collegiate Music Educators National Conference, said that money not spent this year is not useful, since there is no way of knowing whether the money will be the same next year.

“We shouldn’t be thinking about next year’s budget,” Cassady said. “We’re looking at what numbers we have right now, so we’re thinking about now.”

Junior Andrew Erlandson, the representative from Frisbee Club, said that the amount of money proposed seemed as if it was too high and that “after a week, there is still no exact answer about where that money is going or what it’s being spent on.”

The discussion was closed after about 15 minutes, and members of the assembly passed the vote by a narrow margin that required SGA executive board to count votes, an action not common at assembly.

“My eyes welled up,” Pakenham said. “I was so overwhelmed and grateful and surprised.”

Jon Himes, who acts as the Volunteer Center’s student director, said that student workers are all grateful for the increase and are looking to promote volunteer projects around campus.

“We want students to see a tangible result with this extra money,” Himes said. “In the future, we don’t know if the money will be there. Just as easily as the money was added, it can be taken away.”

The added money, Himes said, is reflective of what SGA can do for the student body.

“I think it says a lot about what our student government assembly values,” Himes said.

“It’s my hope that this budget increase will not only benefit Butler students, but the surrounding community as well.”