Penn Student Government’s budget — which typically increases every year — will likely remain the same for the 2021-2022 school year.
The budget, which allocates funds to the six branches of PSG, the Medical Emergency Response Team, and Penn Labs for the next school year, normally increases annually by three to four percent, Undergraduate Assembly Treasurer and Wharton and College junior Nikhil Gupta said. The next budget, however, is likely to remain the same as last year because of University-wide budget cuts.
“All units across Penn were asked to modestly reduce expenses for the current fiscal year as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Associate Provost for Finance and Planning Mark Dingfield wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
The 2020-2021 budget, approved in February 2020, initially allocated $2,758,118 to PSG, representing a 4% increase from the previous year. Over the summer, the University asked PSG to reduce its budget by 5% as a cost-cutting measure, Student Activities Council Chair and College junior Grayson Peters said, making the actual 2020-2021 PSG budget $2,624,850.
Peters said SAC, which allocates funds to student groups on campus, took most of the initial approximately $134,000 funding cut. He added that not having to pay to rent performance spaces in Annenberg Performing Arts Center, for example, saved SAC money during the 2021-2022 school year, allowing it to take on the bulk of the cut.
Gupta said that in talks with administration, the University indicated that PSG may receive a slight increase in funds, but Gupta said PSG will plan the budget assuming there will not be an increase. The UA approves a budget for the following school year in January, but when PSG later receives their actual funds from the University, the amount allocated may change.
“We’d obviously love for there to be an increase, but I think for now we're just moving forward with this budget recommendation number because that’s all that we have,” Gupta said.
Gupta said that as UA Treasurer, he has asked the six branches of student government, as well as Penn Labs and MERT, to keep their budget requests the same for the 2021-2022 school year as they were this school year.
Peters said that he is confident that the budget cut will not affect SAC-funded groups’ ability to continue to operate and have events funded because of the money SAC saved from not paying certain in-person costs.
“I'm really confident, and we're going to work really hard to make sure that all of our SAC groups get the money that they need when they need it,” Peters said. He added, however, that he was disappointed to see the lack of a budget increase for next year.
College senior and Social Planning and Events Committee President Fisher Taylor said that the budget is unlikely to be a problem for SPEC considering that the group will probably be unable to hold the kind of large-scale, in-person events it did before the pandemic for a long time.
Taylor added that while in-person events may occur next year depending on COVID-19 vaccination, the events will have to be in accordance with rules from the Office of Student Affairs and will likely look different.
He added that although he does not anticipate the budget causing problems for SPEC, virtual events hosting performers have been more expensive than the group initially anticipated. In October, SPEC hosted a virtual Q&A with comedian John Mulaney. On Wednesday, SPEC Jazz and Grooves will host musicians Hope Tala and Sudan Archives.
“We're working with the numbers that we've got, and we’ve seen a lot of really good morale from all the branches who are doing their best given the circumstances,” Gupta said.
The PSG budget for the 2021-2022 school year will be finalized and approved by the UA later this month.