USAC members discuss initial 2023-2024 budget
Sept. 21, 2023 11:41 p.m.
Undergraduate Students Association Council officers reflected upon and broke down this year’s initial budget as the new school year approached.
The council unanimously approved the initial budget in its July 18 meeting. The budget totals $10,090,000, with income coming from membership fees, interest and, most of all, student fees from referendums, said Sara Broukhim, the USAC Financial Supports commissioner. The nine USAC offices that do not have referendum fees receive a base budget of $5,000 for the year, she said.
This year’s USAC fee – which comes from referendums that students pass – is $96, said USAC President Naomi Hammonds, a fourth-year psychobiology student. The money goes to multiple offices and programs such as the Academic Advancement Program rather than going to one office, she added.
The budget also allocates increased pay for every appointed official in USAC to match the Los Angeles minimum wage of $16.78, said Broukhim, a fourth-year political science student. The stipends originally followed the California state minimum wage of $15.50, Broukhim said.
“A lot of things that we heard in USAC was that USAC gave ourselves a raise by increasing the minimum wage, which is technically true,” Broukhim said. “USAC needs to do a better job at transparency so students know the work that we’re doing. A lot of effort in USAC is unseen. … We are paid to serve students.”
Student Government Accounting determines the funds available for the budget, which is presented to USAC by Associated Students UCLA staff, said Chia Ying Wong, the USAC Community Service commissioner, in an emailed statement. The budget approval process includes a two-week viewing period and a review by the budget review committee.
Wong, who is a third-year education and social transformation and English student, said the budget review committee presents recommendations and questions to the council before deliberations and voting.
The biggest change in the 2023-2024 budget is the allocation of $10,000 to the transfer student representative’s office, which has previously been used as discretionary funding, Broukhim added. The change was made to support the transfer community, Wong said.
There are limited aspects USAC can change about the budget since the specific referendum language sometimes requires that certain fees go to a specific purpose in an office, Wong said, adding that the language can only be changed by voters.
Wong said the Community Service commissioner’s office receives fees from two referendums – the community service fees and the #UCLA Wellness fund. Wong said the office will also focus on allocating funds from its discretionary budget to more service and social change projects and will increase the funds for student service at UCLA.
“We hope that increasing these additional funding resources will not just help us fund more student-initiated service projects in the coming year, but also enable groups to increase the impact of their service efforts on the larger community,” Wong said in the statement.
Hammonds said the council is committed to financial transparency and accountability, with a major goal being outreach to student organizations and teaching them how to apply for funding.
Broukhim said the Financial Supports commissioner’s office and USAC in general plan to focus on financial transparency. One way her office is doing this is setting up time for students to ask questions, she said, adding that USAC offices are continuing to break down the budget. She also said she is reinstituting the financial expenditure viewer that shows how much money each office has and where that money is going.
Broukhim said USAC also created a financial responsibility oversight board to examine each office’s budget use, with the Financial Supports commissioner as the chair. The board will also host a representative from the USAC president’s office, the internal vice president’s office, the Financial Supports commissioner’s office, and the budget review director and assistant director.
Hammonds said it is important for students to understand and engage with the budget.
“USAC really needs and thrives on student engagement,” Hammonds said. “Students are really critical to the success of passing a referendum, … (and) students determine where our fees go.”