(Courtesy of ASUO)

The ASUO senate voted to decrease the per term incidental fee by $1.75 for the 2021-22 fiscal year at its Budget Bonanza on Jan. 30. The proposed budget allows for ASUO’s new basic needs programs and prepares the senate to deal with a predicted enrollment-related deficit. 

Students pay the I-fee along with university fees and tuition when they register for courses each term. This money goes toward various programs and departments — such as the Erb Memorial Union, public transit passes, student legal services and stipends for student organizations. This puts the ASUO senate in charge of an overall budget of roughly $17 million, with gradual increases most years to account for minimum wage expenses and other rising costs.

For the 2020-21 fiscal year, the I-fee broke down to $271.75 per student per term. Based on the senate’s proposed budget, this cost will drop down to $270 per student per term for the 2021-22 academic year.

“No student is going to look at this dollar decrease and think, ‘ASUO is the best,’” ASUO Senate President Claire O’Connor said at the meeting. However, she said the overall decrease to ASUO’s 2021-22 budget — over $100,000 — is worth it, especially because she doesn’t have a plan for that money.

It also budgeted for a 20% wage increase for all I-fee funded student jobs that are paid through payroll, which is pending approval on the program’s legality. If the salary increase is not approved, the money will roll into surplus where the senate can direct it to services that will support students in other ways.

ASUO President Isaiah Boyd and UO President Michael Schill must approve the proposed budget by Feb. 15. From there, it goes to the board of trustees, who will vote on the budget in early March.

“This is a show of being fiscally responsible to show that we care about every cent,” ASUO Senate Treasurer Ella Meloy said. “We want to make sure that we manage your money correctly, and this is our best effort at doing that. We want to set that precedent for future ASUOs and set that precedent campus-wide.”

Even with the decrease, the senate believes it will have enough money to comfortably deal with next year’s projected deficit — the result of enrollment numbers falling below what the university predicted. Part of this is because the senate predicts a large surplus similar to the 2020-21 year, as a number of programs will return the funds they were unable to use due to COVID-19 at the end of June.

The senate was also able to incorporate new basic needs programming without raising the I-fee by redirecting the funds that formerly paid for student athletics tickets. This includes two new basic needs coordinator positions — one focusing on food security and the other on legal services — as well as textbook and housing subsidies and free menstrual products in the EMU restrooms.

Related: ASUO will no longer pay for student tickets