On Jan. 9, the Associated Students of Portland State Senate met to discuss the Student Fee Committee’s budget proposal for the 2018 financial year. If passed, the budget will increase students’ incidental fee by $17–from $221 to $238–per term for full-time students, excluding the summer term.
Each of the 35 fee-funded areas saw a 5 percent base reduction from their 2017 financial year budget due to a variety of factors: decreased student enrollment, increases in cost of living allowance, and a minimum wage raise from $9.75 to $11.25. The FFAs were allowed to request budget increases through an appeals process.
The SFC has spent more than 250 hours working on this budget. To offset the fee increase to students, the SFC has also proposed to reduce the student building fee by $9 per term, and $7 for summer term. Combined with the incidental fee changes, it would bring students’ total increase down to $8.
In addition, the SFC has decided not to factor in wage compression. FFAs must utilize their approved budgets to raise wages for employees to a comparable amount above minimum wage after the minimum wage increase sets in.
“The SFC really tried to focus on students first and what might best serve student interests,” said SFC Chair Jemila Mohammad. “This involved a lot of discussion surrounding keeping fees affordable while also continuing to support services that serve and impact students.”
The SFC also prioritized investing in student labor and promoting diverse, inclusive spaces for PSU students. Each program requesting a budget increase during the appeals process was required to demonstrate how it would meet those standards.
Programs such as the Smith Memorial Student Union, Little Vikings, Graphic Design Center, Littman + White Galleries were granted over 3 percent increase to cover minimum wage increases, as well as programs like the Queer Resource Center and Student Legal Services which saw 4–6 percent increases to also maintain current levels of programming.
“Ultimately we decided to increase the incidental fee so that a lot of the services/areas we fund could continue operating in the same capacity and to grow,” Mohammad said. “I’m hoping that things will go smoothly from here and we can reach a consensus on the budget and the fees with the other actors involved.”
The student senate has until Jan. 31 to either accept the SFC’s proposal or recommend a new student fee allocation. If the senate approves or makes no changes to the allocation, the budget will be forwarded to PSU President Wim Wiewel. Otherwise, the SFC has seven days to respond to any alterations proposed by the senate.
Wiewel has 10 business days to either accept the SFC’s budget proposal or notify the SFC of any modifications. The SFC has 10 days to consider and respond to those modifications.
“The final recommendation to the board of trustees is due on March 1, and then [BOT] will meet on March 8, which I assume is when they will make a decision,” Mohammad said. “Fiscal Year 2018 starts on July 1, 2017, which is when everything will go into effect. Any increases to the fees will begin in the fall term.”
Ultimately, the incidental student fee allocation will be made jointly by Wiewel and the student senate. The next ASPSU Senate meeting is Jan. 23, the SFC budget may be decided at this time, but a decision must be made by Jan. 31.