SASS may see future budget cuts

After the cancelation of the University’s free newspaper program and annual preseason basketball pep event, officials say budget cuts could be worse in future years.

A $900,000 Student and Academic Support Services budget cut resulted in the discontinuation of the GW Reads free newspaper program and the Colonials Invasion basketball pep event, saving the University a total of $97,000, said Johnnie Osborne, associate vice president and chief financial officer for SASS. The cuts are part of a plan to fill an $8.2 million gap in the 2007 fiscal year budget.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for SASS, said more programs could be cut in the future if budget cuts of a similar size continue next year.

“I honestly don’t see growth in the 2007-2008 school year,” said Chernak, who did not comment on specific programs that could be cut if SASS funds do not increase in the future.

Budget cuts in previous years have been significantly smaller compared to this year’s cut. Three years ago, the SASS budget was cut by $275,000, about one-third of this year’s cut, Osborne said.

He added that SASS has also cut the Summer Tour program, a day camp for students entering second through ninth grades, and modified the schedule for replacing the University’s computers to cut costs.

“It took a lot of staff time,” Chernak said, referring to Summer Tour. “It wasn’t catering to our mission.”

Chernak said the year’s worst cuts have been completed, but that it has been a challenge dealing with it.

“I think we are okay this year,” Chernak said. “We have been able to manage up until this year with the allocations (received from the University).”

Last year SASS raised approximately $500,000 in the wake of the budget cuts, Chernak said, adding that SASS cannot rely on a consistent amount of money from fundraising.

“If we have additional revenue, it can help us restore certain services.”

In an effort to raise more money this year, SASS has called for a larger contribution from the Marvin Center since it has raised its price for outside conference groups to rent space, Osborne said.

Chernak did not specify which programs could be brought back if SASS received more funds. He said that when the cuts were first made, administrators prioritized programs based on importance.

“What we were looking for was what we could do (to improve) and sustain what we do as an office,” Chernak said.

Last week members of the Student Association voted to brainstorm a way to continue the newspaper program without University funding.

“No one felt the newspaper program was not a good program,” Chernak said. “This was just something that ranked as a lesser priority than others.”

He added that officials identified Colonials Invasion as an event that did not warrant such a significant amount of funding.

“Colonials Invasion was just an embellishment that could be curtailed,” Chernak said. “We still felt there were other ways to do a (similar program).”

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