$21,000 funding bill prompts heated discussion in WSGA

Travis Perry

After questions, discussion and a bit of criticism, the Washburn Student Government Association approved a $21,000 bill to help fund the construction of an outdoor stage on campus.

Despite calls from several senators to table the bill and wait for other senators to better grasp the effects of passing such action before voting on it, the senate voted 21-5 not to table the bill. While many senators seemed on the edge about voting one way or another, the tipping point seemed to come from Vince Bowhay, WSGA president.

Bowhay informed the senate that the money had been earmarked for spending when the budget was made last spring. However, Nick Woolery, former WSGA budget director, said that Bowhay’s statement was false.

Woolery, who helped create the WSGA budget for this school year, left his position at the end of the fall 2007 semester because of schedule and time conflicts. He said that when WSGA refers to something as being earmarked it means that the executive staff has decided they want to use money for that purpose when designing the budget, and that the original list of earmarks never included anything pertaining to the construction of an outdoor stage.

“There was some good, logical reasoning for not voting for that $21,000,” said Woolery. “It seems pretty expensive, considering the student organization money is gone.”

Students present for the meeting also voiced concerns over the large amount of funding.

“As a student, I think that $21,000 of my dollars warrants more discussion at a student forum,” said Brandon Wentz, senior history major.

However, Bowhay informed those present that the outdoor stage was an issue that Lacey Keller, WSGA vice president, and he had campaigned for last year and that he has reported on it throughout the year.

“It’s a great place to start intellectual discussions,” said Keller in reference to the potential she saw in an outdoor stage. “It’s also a great place for entertainment.”

Whitney Philippi, WSGA senator, brought up several good reason why she believed the funding should not be approved, focusing on the question of whether or not the stage would be fully utilized. Philippi noted that 40 percent of Washburn’s student body is composed of non-traditional students, who would be less likely to use the stage. She added that she would like to see WSGA make more of an attempt to get alumni support and donations for the construction.

Because the money had never been earmarked when the budget was created, funds for the construction will be drawn from the WSGA reserves account. According to Josh Maples, current WSGA budget director, $47,000 of the account has already been spent this year. Woolery said the reserves account is traditionally used to handle unplanned expenditures and would be much better suited to handle the lack of student organization funding.

The total cost for the stage will be around $60,000, two-thirds of which Washburn University will pay for during construction. Washburn will handle all maintenance costs from then on.