The SA meeting March 4 saw the student representatives reject a bill that would set the SA fee at $95 for the 2021-22 school year, higher than the 2020-21 fee of $55.
The SA mandatory fee was $105 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was lowered to $55 for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, a cut of over 47%. This was done to provide relief to students struggling with financial distress due to pandemic complications, as well as adjusting to the new reality that club activity had dramatically decreased. The reduced fee left little room in the budget for new activities from clubs and organizations.
However, more on-campus activity is expected for the next school year. For this reason, SA Treasurer Saugat Gautam introduced a bill that would set the upcoming SA fee to $95.
“Things will probably, and hopefully, be looking different next year,” Gautam said. “We’ll be having more activities among clubs and organizations, so we need a bigger budget in order to have the resources to accommodate that.”
The contents of the bill laid out what the upcoming SA budget would look like given varying fee amounts. If the fee continued to be set at $55, as it is now, there will be a budget cut of $493,000 for the year, which would handicap the SA’s ability to meet the operation costs of maintaining the shuttle and Feinberg library.
If the fee is set at around $80 or $85, as some representatives have previously suggested, the resulting budget cut would be approximately $243,000 – a reduction that would still significantly impact funding for clubs and organizations, according to the bill.
It was also said that bringing the fee back to the original amount of $105 would still lead to a budget cut of $90,000, due to declining enrollment numbers at SUNY Plattsburgh. However, returning to the pre-COVID fee would be unfair as the pandemic conditions and its lingering effects on students’ abilities and finances are not expected to disappear anytime soon. Hence, the bill proposed a SA fee of $95.
“It’s right in the middle ground between $85 and $105,” Gautam said. “It seems like a fair number given the circumstances.”
Gautam stressed that this fee, though higher than the current amount, would be able to much more effectively accommodate an increase in student activity and a gradual return to normalcy. However, the proposal proved controversial.
“I don’t really see why the SA fee needs to be raised just yet,” Senator Faozia Faria said. “It might just create more complications for students.”
Others agreed the higher fee may not be what the Plattsburgh community needs presently, pointing to the expected reluctance among students to pay more than they currently are. The bill failed to obtain the minimum of nine votes needed to pass, as only four senators voted in favor of it.
“I think some of the senators really misunderstood the bill and why it is necessary,” Gautam said, addressing his bill’s rejection. “It’s important to see that we’re going to be facing new responsibilities next year, and we’re going to need the budget and resources to do our job.”
He also pointed out a deeper issue resulting from the SA’s decision to reject the bill.
“We need a SA fee to function,” Gautam said. “Without this bill, there is no established fee for next year. Without a fee, there is no budget. Without a budget, there may be no SA.”