Student Govenment Budget Deadlock
The first AUBG student government meeting for the academic year, scheduled on Oct. 5 and organized to decide on the club budget allocation, brought forward many questions about the budget policies in both AUBG and the student government. Students were concerned with the budget allocation and where and how the money is distributed in the university. Many club representatives present on the meeting voiced their uneasiness with the budget appropriation that increased the budget of four clubs, gave the same amount as previous years for many, and cut the budget for the rest.
The student government (SG) President Lyuben Popov commented that there is a raise in the student activities and projects on campus, leading to increased demand for SG bucket funds. However, the SG budget was cut by 2.7%, or an estimated $1100 less than what they have requested in previous years, putting SG in a difficult position of how to deal with the new situation. SG senators justified their decision by explaining the shortage of alternatives they were present with due to the budgetary fall.
“Unfortunately, this year the Student Government budget was cut by approximately $1000 dollars. On top of that we have had seven or eight more clubs, which have applied for bucket funding, which clearly shows that there is an increase in the student activity,”Popov shared. “And both these reasons, SG cut and an increase in the club bucket demand, result in this poor situation, where we want to give money so the clubs can do their projects but the low amount of money prevents us from doing so.”
Former president of the student govenment Mario Grachenov, who was at the meeting, remarked that instead of complaining to the SG, students should ask the administration why the student activity fee was increased, while the SG budget was cut down.
It is still not clear of where the money for the SG budget comes from. According to unconfirmed information, part of the money comes from the student activity fees that AUBG students pay. Despite the increase in the fees, the student government funding has not been changed in recent years. The current trend is concerning since it deprives the students from the opportunity to expand their projects, shares Lyuben Popov. According to him, student clubs are one of the main promoting tools of AUBG, but the AUBG administration does not present an adequate support for them.
Student clubs are highly dependent on SG financing for their projects, especially when it comes to expanding their activities on campus. Approximately seven new clubs filled a budget application form for this year, shared Popov.
Due to the budget cut, AUBG clubs feel pressured to compete for financial backing instead of focusing on expansion of their projects, and cooperation between them that would enrich the AUBG community. The main issue that arose at the last meeting was why some clubs got an increase and other did not, and what are the SG criteria when deciding the budget distribution. The student government senators explained that many of the new clubs have to prove themselves by creating smaller but successful events and projects, after which they can request increase in the budget.
The SG Treasurer Uros Vasilev, shared that throughout the whole decision-making process, Student Govenment’s objective was fairness toward both big and small clubs.
“Unfortunately, because the budget was lowered, all clubs become competitive with each other no matter that they are different in terms of activities and projects,” Vasilev said. “We never compare clubs when giving away money. Every club application is considered by itself.”
Vasilev explained that the SG was unable to grant all the money that was requested, considering the student government deficit would end up being from $6000 to $9000. Although, many of the clubs suffered, they understood the tough situation in which the SG is and chose to give up portions of their budget, said Vasilev. According to him, SG activities and projects were cut the most, compared to other AUBG organizations.
Even though many club representatives expressed their understanding about the difficult circumstances under which SG has to work, club representatives were concerned with the criteria by which the budget is allocated. According to SG senators, the clubs have to prove themselves in terms of successfulness of projects and activities before requesting a drastic increase in the budget. In addition, clubs which have not applied for a bucket in previous years cannot get the amount they applied for, since there is no basis on which SG can evaluate their productivity and potential.
The AUBG Rock Jamming Club (RJC) which applied for $1550, planning Spring Fest concert in the municipality center, was granted only $520 for equipment maintenance.
The president of the Rock Jamming Club, Georgii Kolotilo, shared that the club did not apply for a bucket last year even thought they held the event, but relied on their own money, and other university and municipality support. The RJC members were disappointed because they were not granted even the half of the budget for the event, after SG reasoned that the event is not targeting only the AUBG community, but is open for all Blagoevgrad citizens.
“The event is very good press according to some of the university officials we talked to,” Kolotilo said. However, the club does not have the means to organize the event and would have to seek sponsorhsip outside of AUBG if they want to realize it.
Another university club that was discussed during the meeting was InFocus. Club representative Diana Elagina, shared that their initial plan was to publish two magazine issues and organize a photo exhibition this academic year. However, after being granted only half of the money they requsted, the club would have to rely on outside sponsorship for expanding their activities.
“They thought that it would be more beneficial for us to apply for the budget throughout the year, not through the bucket. However, getting the budget throughout they year is risky because if you come late, there might be no budget left for your club.”
The student government President Popov shared that SG is ready to support the student body in any activities, concerning the AUBG administration and its decisions. The SG has invited the AUBG President Stratsi Kulinski and the Vice President of Finance and Administration Alexander Alexandrov on their regular meeting on Oct. 19, where they will answer questions about some pressing issues such as: the student government budget cuts, the continuous increase in tuition fees and the $300 meal plan.
The meeting will be held in Balkanski Academic Center’s auditorium, so more students can attend the meeting and address the administrative members, said Popov. He shares that if the students are not satisfied with the administrative decisions made in AUBG, he is ready to support any student body actions for change.