SA distributes $2.4 million campus wide


The SDSU Students’ Association allocated more than $2.4 million last year.

The SA has a tremendous influence over more than 30 percent of the money collected as part of the University’s General Activity Fee. Last year that amounted to over $2.4 million, which senators divided amongst various student services and groups.

The top two recipients were The Union and student health and counseling at The Wellness Center, with $860,000 and $697,000 respectively.

One of the SA’s primary functions is to assist the University in deciding how to allocate GAF funds to student organizations and functions. The GAF is currently $24.95 per credit hour or $ 374.25 for a 15-credit semester and is collected as part of tuition.

Student organizations apply for student fee dollars through SA’s finance committee. During last year’s budget cycle 29 student groups applied for funds including SA itself. The SA’s budget recommendations include clubs ranging from the quarter scale tractor team to Colleges Against Cancer.

Excluding The Union and Wellness Center, SA’s was the third largest allocation of student fee money at $70,008. The money is used to fund the student senate’s operations and scholarships for the executive board. The president and vice president both get $4,500, while the administrative assistant and three committee chairs each get $3,000.

“Instead of me going and working for 20 or 30 hours a week somewhere else, I can devote my time to serving students,” said SA vice president Anthony Sutton.

SA allocated a total of $20,216 for salaries for the SA’s legal aid attorney and a portion of the salary for the student activities secretary, a position that is currently unfilled. $3,565 was also budgeted to pay the benefits for those positions. SA also budgeted $4,000 to pay its part-time office assistants. Ultimately SA allocated $49,608 on salaries and benefits for its employees and scholarships.

Another $3,000 was spent on dues for the South Dakota Students’ Federation. Those dues are based on the size of a university’s student body. In SDSU’s case that amounts to about 40 percent of the federation’s total budget. All six of South Dakota’s public universities are represented equally with two members on the board.

“A lot of people look to us,” said SA president Mark York. “We’ve kind of been on the leading edge of things.”

Last year was the first time in the last three years that SA spent money on leadership development. A total of $2,400 was spent on things like binders for each senator, bringing in speakers to their retreats and purchasing training materials.

“Our senators serve on a lot of different organizations,” said SA finance chair Brian Gottlob. “Ultimately we’re here to represent students and that’s what that $2,400 was for. We’ve got new senators every year and we’ve got to bring them up to speed.”

$500 was budgeted as miscellaneous, according to Sutton. The money was included in case something unexpected happened. Gottlob said the money was used, this year, to help fund the Bum-a-Bike program. He went on to describe SA as more fluid than other student organizations because they don’t have a specific event or set of events they work on throughout the year.

“We don’t exactly know what next year is going to do,” Gottlob said.

Postage, printing, rentals, supplies, insurance and chamber dues rounded out the SA’s budget for operations with a combined total of $3780.

SA does not have the final say in how student fee dollars are spent. Instead, they are the first of three groups that evaluate student fee requests. SA receives requests through its finance committee where they are discussed and evaluated.

SA then votes to recommend the budget request to the University Activity Fee Budget Committee, which then sends its recommendation to SDSU president David Chicoine for approval.

“We don’t really make decisions, we make recommendations,” York said.

Last year Chicoine instructed the SA to revamp its budgeting process to better reflect industry standards. SA did some research and discovered the system they were using was behind the times. That discovery prompted a change in the way they recommend funding to the president.

“If he says jump, we ask how high,” Sutton said.

The budgeting process was divided into two tiers. The first was set aside for The Union and student health at the Wellness Center, while everything else was put into tier two. The two first-tier budgets were slated to be considered first because they were the largest and had the potential to affect the most students.

“The reason The Union and Wellness Center went first is because if the president were to look at those budgets and say ‘I think you guys screwed up’ we’d have had to go back and change every other budget,” Sutton said.

Implementing the new system proved to be more difficult than first thought. The budget season was supposed to have started last October, however, due to a series of scheduling delays and some issues in the State Legislature, the first-tier budgets weren’t decided until February. This pushed the second tier budgets back into March.

“I did not realize it would take that long,” Gottlob said.