ASUONews

ASUO senator storms out of meeting, EMU budget not approved



ASUO senators and finance committees convened at Mackenzie Hall on Feb. 13 to vote on proposed budgets for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Although budget meetings often evoke images of spreadsheets and boring presentations, this six-hour budget meeting was less mundane.

“My life revolves around drama, and today is a ripe day for my memoir,” Senator Zach Lusby said about the meeting. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Senator storms out of meeting, panic ensues, FaceTime allows vote

Senator Zach Rentschler stormed out of the room during voting after disagreeing with the Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee’s proposed budget. Rentschler was the last senator to vote on the budget, all other senators voted in favor of it. Instead of voting against it, he picked up his backpack and left.

“Have a nice day,” Rentschler said, as he walked out.

Rentschler criticized ACFC’s budget for “prioritizing student advocacy” like OSPIRG rather than student accessibility and safety through Lane Transit District.

The senate needs 16 senators in attendance, or two-thirds, to hold a vote. Rentschler’s departure put it one senator short of this requirement and effectively stalled the meeting after five hours of discussion.

With no budgets passed and months of work on the line, panic enveloped the room. Senators scrambled to find another member to replace him and save the meeting from adjournment.

Following Rentschler’s departure, Senator Jason Selby attended the meeting through FaceTime, but abstained from the vote because he was not present during the discussion.

Rentschler returned later in the meeting, and Senate President Kevin Dobyns wanted him to apologize. Rentschler stood by his decision.

“This was a huge failure for student safety. I did what I think was right,” Rentschler said.

However, his departure and subsequent return may have been for nothing.

Budget meeting may be invalid, emergency meeting needed

After six hours of budget presentations and deliberations, a discrepancy in the budgets may have rendered it all invalid.

Senate approved the ACFC, Program Finance Committee and Department Finance Committee budgets. All three committees drafted their budgets to accomodate the projected 4.5 percent increase in the Incidental budget next year, a smaller increase than originally thought. 

Near the end of the meeting, ASUO Accounting Coordinator Lindsey Cotney informed the body that the budget resulted in a five percent increase.

ASUO Finance Director Shawn Stevenson said it is unclear if the proposed budgets were inaccurate or the calculation systems were at fault. Cotney planned to work throughout the weekend with finance committee members to find the problems.

Senate will hold an emergency meeting prior to its weekly meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Senate must approve the budgets by Friday, Feb. 19 for ASUO President Helena Schlegel to sign off and send them to the Board of Trustees.

ASUO executives scrutinize EMU Board budget which fails to be approved

The EMU Board budget came under intense scrutiny from ASUO Executives who feel that the board has been separated from the ASUO. The EMU board is an ASUO finance committee, which consists of ASUO Senate members and regular committee members, that is in charge of creating the EMU’s budget for the next fiscal year. The budget was the only one not approved by the senate.

Schlegel said she did not receive the complete EMU Board budget until the night before the budget meeting.

Executives and members of the board debated about what goes in the budget and who decides that amount. Senator Max Burns claimed the EMU professionals, rather than students, created the budget.

Schlegel pointed out that roughly $20,000 going to office supplies on the budget could be paid with other resources. She suggested the board look into the Executive fund – money allocated for student groups’ office supplies – for supplies to reduce rising Incidental Fees.

The EMU board’s budget is at $6.5 million, which translates to a 2.5 percent increase from last year. Senator Robin Lilley, a board member, said it’s the smallest budget increase ever for the EMU board.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated Rentschler also criticized funding for OSA. That is not true.


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Miles Trinidad

Miles Trinidad

Miles Trinidad is an Opinion Columnist for the Emerald focusing on politics, social policy and economics. Prior to joining the Opinion Desk, Trinidad was a reporter and covered student groups and ASUO for the Emerald from 2015-2016 and contributed to Flux Magazine in 2017.

Trinidad has worked in political campaigns, non-profit political advocacy, and a legislative and communication role for a U.S. senator.

Trinidad is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science, economics, and journalism.