On Nov. 2, Student Senate voted on the tier three budget slate. Submissions from tier three organizations saw a substantial decrease from years past as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Student organizations are categorized on a three tier scale based on the size of their membership. Tier three groups are the smallest, not always active every year and are more niche than the other two tiers. The scale is used in Student Senate to determine the maximum budget that can be given to these organizations.
“Each of the three groups has an upper spending limit. Tier one has no limit, tier two is $10,000 and tier three is $500. So we split out the money accordingly and we have a separate amount for each one that we can allocate to,” said Ian McMillan, a member of Student Senate’s finance committee.
The money given to organizations is paid for by Valpo students as part of a student activities fee. The total amounts to approximately $650,000, but it varies every year. This grand total is then divided by the finance committee amongst the three tiers and allows for the proper allocation of funding.
In a typical year, the considerable amount of organizations that apply for a budget exceeds the total amount that can be given. Budget cuts are made based on the amount an organization is asking for in relation to how much they’ve spent in past years and whether their requests follow the bylaws of Student Senate’s constitution.
The bylaws restrict the finance committee from funding anything that benefits solely an organization rather than Valpo as a whole. For instance, money can’t be granted for a group purchasing t-shirts for their members. Once cuts are made in regards to the bylaws, an organization’s spending behavior is considered.
“If an organization regularly spends 90% to 100% of their budget, they probably won’t see many cuts if there are other organizations that spend 50% of their budget. The reason we do that is because we want to make sure that the student activities money everybody pays is actually going to be used to benefit the students as a whole,” McMillan said.
The numerous cancellations and restrictions that come with the pandemic have caused slightly over half of tier three organizations not to apply for a budget for the spring 2021 semester. Tier three organizations who have applied have benefitted from the low number of groups requesting a portion of the tier three allowance.
“For tier three, we had $9,500 to give away this year to put into budgets. Typically what happens, this is different because of COVID, we have around 40 to 50 tier three budgets come in. So the student [organization] submits their budget to us, and we review it and we allocate the money. So this year, instead of the 40 to 50 budgets we typically get from tier threes, we got 22, and we were able to fully fund everybody,” McMillan said.
Hooked On Tonics, a tier three co-ed student a cappella group, is unable to conduct meetings, participate in competitions and perform concerts for the community during the fall 2020 semester. Despite their hesitations, they requested funding for the spring 2021 semester.
“I submitted a budget just in case we’d be able to meet next semester, it’s not looking good so far. It was really hard to apply for money and know that we might not use it because I don’t want to take it away from other organizations, but also if we are functioning, we do need that money,” said Paige Mecyssine, the music director for Hooked On Tonics.
This budget goes towards a number of things that are essential for the success of Hooked On Tonics. However, their organization of 16 members doesn’t request the maximum budget amount for tier three.
“We spend maybe $50 on recruiting and doing auditions at the beginning of the year. Usually we spend $100 or $200 on printing music and printing flyers for our concerts and programs. Any competition fees, we have to pay for those. We usually average around $300 or $350, we never need the full $500,” Mecyssine said.
The organization has yet to use any of their fall 2020 budget that was approved during the spring 2020 semester. Their untouched money, along with the funds from other organizations and a lack of requests for a budget next semester, have created a surplus. These extra funds go to the Student Senate’s Discretionary Funds Committee (DFC), which rolls over every semester.
According to the DFC page on valpo.edu, “The Discretionary Funds Committee shall exist to distribute grants from unused student activities fees for special projects that directly enhance the experience for undergraduate students.”
Regardless of the amount of excess created this year from the tier one, two and three allocations as a result of COVID-19, the unused money remains in circulation within Student Senate committees and is used towards benefitting students in the Valpo community.