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Senate discusses oversight with FMB, approves Judicial Council nominees

| Thursday, September 12, 2019

At their weekly meeting, the Notre Dame student senate met with Financial Management Board (FMB) Student Union treasurer Christine Arcoleo to discuss fiscal policy and spending for this upcoming year.

Arcoleo, a senior, began the meeting by giving a presentation about the FMB. The FMB is composed of a member from every Student Union body including all four class councils, the student government, judicial council, SUB and other organizations.

The FMB monitors club spending that exceeds $5,000, organizes The Shirt Charity Fund and allocates funds towards all Student Union organizations now and in the spring. Arcoleo also clarified that this funding the FMB and CCC allocates each year comes from The Shirt Charity Event, Student Activity Fees and half of endowment returns.

She said FMB goes through a long process involving multiple budget proposals and a four-hour meeting to finalize how the money is allocated.

Arcoleo addressed previous Student Union deficit spending and ways to prevent it. Arcoleo said if the four class councils overspend, the account balance rolls over to the next year, which can lead to a smaller balance for the next class. The issue lies with all other Student Union organizations which have their debts covered by the Carryforward account — pooled from student activity fees — and resets July 1.

The implication of this resetting means each Student Union organization’s balance returns to zero dollars regardless of whether that organization was severely in debt or running a surplus. Arcoleo stressed there is virtually no accountability on this particular issue, with very little in the Constitution available to address rampant spending.

Arcoleo gave a list of recommendations to the Senate — such as having Student Union organizations check in monthly with the FMB about spending, changing roll-over policy and adding penalties or incentives for spending certain amounts.

Student Body vice president junior Patrick McGuire spoke about how the student government came to realize this issue through the recently-cancelled Midnight Express.

“Just to give a little bit of context, as it turned out for the past five years, the student government was not aware that it was required to pay for 50% of The Midnight Express, so therefore those budgets had not included any allocation,” McGuire said. “Not [to] the fault of any past student government administrations because these budgets were based on precedent and they weren’t aware they were paying for it, but the student government budget finished with a very significant amount of debt.”

As it turned out, student government had been bailed out by the Carryforward account.

Questions toward Arcoleo centered around how much money goes into each Carryforward account, the ability of the FMB to limit spending, which Student Union organization spends too much and which organizations receive the most funding. McGuire mentioned a past policy on this matter.

“Once you spend past your budget, FMB will require all expenses to be approved, which would require a lot of time and attention and effort,” McGuire said.

There was a focus among senators about being too careful and potentially punishing future administrations with entirely different leaderships about the fiscal shortcomings of previous administrations.

“If we punish somebody in the future, it’s not their fault if the previous administration overspends,” Keegan McArdle, a sophomore senator representing Dunne Hall, said. “Would something like semester checks make the budgetary restrictions shorter, then you can spend X amount this semester and X amount the next semester, and basically say if you overspend in the first semester, you get this much money and we’re not going to foot the bill for anything else. You can’t really do that and then put that at the hands of the new administration.”

Senior Linde Hoffman, student government chief of staff, said student government should be careful about leaving debts to future administrations.

“If we did go with punishing the next administration for what the previous administration did, for us that would have been the payment for the Midnight Express — we discussed that we would not go for it this year because it would have taken up half of our budget,” she said. “We would have been docked half of the money we had been allocated the previous year, and then if we wanted to continue paying for the Midnight Express, we would have then had to pay for this year, which would have been the other half of our budget. … Seeing that there are sometimes unforeseen circumstances like the Midnight Express happening, I don’t know if [punishing future administrations] is the best way forward.”

Two proposals were pitched, including requiring clubs to get spending approved by the FMB should they go over-budget and setting aside part of an organization’s funds as a cushion.

Following discussions of the FMB and spending oversight, senate moved onto hearing and then confirming the Election Committee Nominations for the school year. The judicial council is required to have its members ready for the upcoming Freshman Class Council elections taking place next week. Eight members were approved with a few returning from last year.

The senate is expected to meet with Heather Rakoczy Russell, associate vice president for residential life and Keri Kei Shibata, chief of Notre Dame Police Department, next week about dorm access policy.

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