The Michigan Student Assembly wants to increase funding for student groups, and they will be asking students to help foot the bill.

A ballot initiative asking for a $1 increase in the student government fee will be on the ballot during the election, which begins tonight at midnight and will run through Thursday night.

Every student at the University is assessed a $5.69 fee as a part of their tuition each semester. If the ballot initiative passes, it will increase that fee to $6.69.

Since 1998 the number of student groups on campus has risen to more than 1,000, said MSA President Nolan, and the amount of money groups have asked for has tripled, but there has been no fee increase since 1997 when the fee was upped from $3.69 to $5.69.

“The amount of money student groups requested was six times the amount of money we have to allocate. Student group funding is really tight,” Nolan said. “We”re asking for a buck increase. What you get for that is $73,000 a year or more for funding. That”s a lot of really cool stuff on campus that could be happening but isn”t because of funding problems.”

Nolan said he does not think the fee increase is significant when comparing the University”s fee to other Big Ten Universities. Michigan State University has a $13 student fee and the University of Wisconsin at Madison currently charges a $139 fee for student government.

The MSA code requires that $1 of the fee automatically go to child care services. Of the remaining $4.69, more than 50 percent is allocated to two committees, Budget Priorities and Community Service. These groups, composed of MSA representatives and other students, decide whether to allocate money to student groups and community service projects. The rest of the money goes into a committee discretionary fund and is allocated to projects and groups as representatives see fit.

The assembly code also requires funding the Ann Arbor Tenants Union with about $20,000 per year. The tenants union provides students who live off campus with counseling and legal assistance.

The MSA budget also funds expenses such as office supplies, equipment rental, staff salaries, an annual conference and advertising.

Nolan said MSA is required to keep a monetary reserve in case of emergency shortages because the allocations are made before the final budget is known.

Student organizations, including club sports teams, glee clubs and fraternities or sororities can petition BPC or CSC for funds by completing a detailed application and interview.

“The BPC has always been short on cash when we compare the money student groups request with the money we can actually give,” said BPC Chair Javier Restrepo.

CSC co-chair Alicia Johnson said while the BPC hands out funds to student groups for general use throughout the year, the CSC funds specific community service-oriented projects and events. “Instead of funding the College Democrats for general operating expenses, we funded them for an event in which they (brought) Senator Feingold to campus,” she said.

MSA Vice President Jessica Cash said the committees spend more time reviewing newer groups” applications, but the allocation process is non-discriminatory.

“There isn”t any type of organization that has any advantage,” she said. “The important factors in an application include clear budgeting, non-inflated expenses, impact on the community and campus, and attempts made to get other funding.”

Cash said large discrepancies exist between groups in the amount of funding they receive because some groups make realistic requests while others inflate their expenses or require more money to operate.

“Some groups only ask for $100 and are extremely happy with $75. On the other hand, when a group is extremely large and successful, the committee factors that in $15 wouldn”t help a group like K-grams significantly, while it might help a very small organization with flyers and copies,” Cash said.

Daily Staff Reporter Tomislav Ladika

contributed to this report.

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