Illinois Student Senate boosts spending, remains on budget

The Illinois Student Senate has spent about 146 percent more than it did at this time last year, according to the quarterly financial report released early this month.

This includes increases of about 536 percent in spending on events, 152 percent in promotions and 269 percent in travel, as well as an about 48 percent decrease in supply spending compared with last year. 

Treasurer Kevin Seymour said in an email that despite what looks like a spike, spending levels in past years have been low and too much money has been left over. The senate receives $39,000 at the beginning of the academic year from the University from student service fees.

“At this point, (the) senate is on target for spending its annual budget,” Seymour said. “Last year’s spending was very unhealthy, which resulted in a larger amount being rolled over.”

Promotional spending, as with last year, comprised the largest portion of the budget at 48 percent. Of the remaining portion of the senate’s budget, 37 percent was spent on events, 8 percent on travel and 7 percent on supplies.

While event spending rose the most since last year at this time, the majority of that increase was largely related to carried-over costs of the iRent program, initiated last March, which allows students to rent iClickers for free on a semester basis. This program cost the senate about $8,000 to purchase 200 iClickers and made up 28 percent of spending this year.

Senator Jim Maskeri, senior in LAS, said programs like this allow the senate to support students in their educational endeavors. He said he’s always been an advocate for a larger senate budget because he thinks senators are stuck in the mind-set that they do not have enough money to make a difference on campus.

“By dipping into some of our surplus, I think we’ve been able to do some more impactful things with our budget this year,” Maskeri said.

Jenny Baldwin, vice president-external and public relations committee chair, said this spending is important for the senate to be able to reach out to its constituents.

“If people don’t know who we are, then we can’t really help them because they won’t come to us with problems, with issues that need to be solved,” Baldwin said.

She said some people would see it as the senate spending money on itself, but she disagrees. She said that even if senators are out every day telling people what they’re doing, they won’t be able to reach the same amount of students as the senate could with promotions.

Maskeri said that if they weren’t able to get students interested in the senate, the senate would not be able to function as an organization.

But some senators are unhappy with the amount of promotional spending.

“If we were doing a good enough job, we wouldn’t need to spend money to promote ourselves,” said Max Ellithorpe, senator and graduate student. “We’re spending money to get our name out because we, in other ways, haven’t done a good job at doing that.”

Student body President Brock Gebhardt said the senate’s purpose in spending their budget is solely to better promote the student body.

“Whenever there are questions of spending that come up, they’re always strictly scrutinized, and they go through a strict examination,” Gebhardt said. “The Committee on Financial Affairs has been very stringent on what they have let through. ... They have been very careful and meticulous with what they let come to the senate floor.”

Tyler can be reached at tadavis2@dailyillini.com.