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Heated Debate Between Senators Over Final Budget

By Shawn Ness | April 22, 2024


Senator Dylan Klein during debate.

Photo Credit: Shawn Ness / The ASP


In the second to last University at Albany Student Association meeting of the year, the usual festivities occurred: review of a final budget, both internal and external. Names were called, political games were played, and there was a mini-filibuster. 


There are two different types of budgets for the Student Association: an internal and external budget. The external budget deals with student organization funding, while the internal budget deals with funding for SA-ran concerts, payroll for directors and office staff, scholarship funding, and Dippikill funding. 


The meeting was largely chaired by Parmesh Thakoordial, Vice Chair of the Board of Finance. 


External Budget:


There was not a lot of debate over the external budget, most discussions that were had were cleared up shortly and with simple answers. 


Except for one issue: Middle Earth Funding. The group – which provides peer assistance to students – had its funding decreased by almost $6,000, bringing its total to a little over $70,000. The group had originally requested $76,000 before later appealing to receive an additional $2,650, which they did not get. 

 

Rules and Administration Chair Dylan Klein demanded an explanation of the cut, Board of Finance Chair Shania Blair explained that the cut was to allow them to be able to function and provide their services, but would not allow them to host things like a recognition dinner. 


Klein then motioned to increase the club’s funding by $2,650, which was the recommended increase by the Committee on Constituent Relations, which deals with club’s budget appeals. 


“We can't sit here and say we care about mental health yet we're going to be okay with ignoring an appeal from them on mental health services,” Klein said. 


He made a motion to give the club the additional funding, which failed with only two votes in favor of the increase from Klein and Sen. Gabriel Kitt. 


After that, the entire external budget went to a vote, which was approved with 26 votes. Only Klein voted against the budget’s passage. 


Internal Budget: 


There was much more debate on the internal budget, mainly over two things: an increase to President Jalen Rose’s stipend, as well as funding for three SA-administered scholarships. 


Klein and Vice President Amelia Crawford proposed a $500 increase to Rose’s stipend, which would have made it $9,000 flat.


“We’re only going to do a $500 increase to the president, but we want to do some kind of increase because, guys, I think Jalen was on a lot this year,” Crawford said. “He’s done a really good job, and c’mon, we’re really gonna argue over $500?”


Sen. Selwa Khan, backed by other Senators, answered “Yes! Yes!” 


Blair as well as SA Comptroller Jason Lisciandro took issue with the motion, saying that stipends do not fund the individual in the position, rather the position as a whole, and that whomever is the next president would also receive that same pay. 


“We do not fund individuals. We fund positions. That's not to say these people haven’t done great work. They have. If we had the funds, great. I'd say give it to them. We don't have the funds,” Lisciandro said. 


He also cited that position rates are market competitive and compared it to other student governments in other SUNYs, like Stony Brook, whose presidents are paid $16 an hour. The proposed increase to Rose’s pay would be $28/hour.


Sen. Joleen Chen said that considering raises while simultaneously cutting club funding was “disgraceful.” 


“I understand that the executive branch does a lot of work. But look at the internal budget. Look at the students you serve. We slash the budget, and we needed to. So it doesn't make sense for the internal budget to ask for a raise,” Chen explained. 


In the end, the proposed increase failed with four yes votes from Senators Emma Rennard, Nic Feldman, Kitt, and Klein; 18 “no” votes; and four abstentions.


And then Senators began discussing the proposed cuts to three different SA-funded scholarships: The Affordable Testing, Errol Millington Memorial Scholarship, and the Book Scholarships.


The Board of Finance proposed a 100% decrease of the aforementioned scholarships due to minimal applicants. It was cited that only one person applied for one of the scholarships and they were previously a member of SA. 


This started a filibustering cycle. Klein, Feldman and Kitt took turns proposing various amounts to give to the scholarships. First it was $3,000, then $2,000, then $1,500 and even the original $5,000 was recommended. The amendments were made for all three scholarships.


The whole ordeal went on for nearly an hour, with the same debate points being made of “the cuts are fair,” to “what’s the point if no one applies?” 


Eventually those trying to increase the fundings stopped and considerations of other budget items continued. 


This brought the meeting to consider the internal budget as a whole. This time, a number of people voted against it: Klein, Feldman, Kitt, and Sen. Marcos Perez. 


Both sections of the budget were eventually confirmed and passed with both sections being voted on as one entity. 


Klein continued to vote against it in its entirety, but not as an official tally. Instead, as people gathered their things to leave the CC Boardroom well past 1:00 a.m., Klein yelled out “The Board of Finance lied, I reject this budget,” and then walked out of the room before casting an official vote. 


In the end, the budget was approved with 22 votes and only one abstention from Perez.

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