How much is your Student Body president worth?
At UF, former President Anthony Reynolds was worth an $8,995.56 yearly salary, plus $4,050 in benefits. That’s about $7,000 less than the president at the University of Central Florida.
High-ranking UF Student Government officials earn salaries, but some also get special parking passes, cellphone payments and prefilled meal cards for on-campus dining.
These benefits have been hotly debated in the past few SG election cycles. Reducing them was part of the Students Party’s Fall 2011 campaign, and in the Spring 2012 executive debate, candidates attacked each other over topics such as perks.
Students Party and Unite Party candidates didn’t come to any agreement on whether SG officials should receive benefits.
The elections are over, but students still don’t agree.
Students Party Sen. Carly Wilson has been vocal about the issue campaigning for Student Body treasurer and in Student Senate meetings. She pulls a Diet Coke and a sandwich out of her bag for lunch, she said, so she doesn’t see why executives can’t, too.
The Student Body president, vice president and treasurer each get a meal card. The cards were good for up to $3,000 each in the 2011-2012 year, and that will drop to $1,000 for 2012-2013. The Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee got a collective meal card of up to $500 for the 2011-2012 year, which has been cut in half for 2012-2013.
Committee Chairwoman Christina Bonarrigo said the meal card allows her and the eight other committee members to grab lunch during several day-long meetings. She said they usually restrict themselves to a Subway sandwich, a drink and a bag of chips each, and she gives receipts to the SG Finance office.
Bonarrigo said there’s nothing wrong with UF providing food for meetings.
The committee only gets a meal card, but some officials have more benefits.
Six officials get cellphone payments up to a certain amount. This year, though, it grew complicated.
For the Fall 2011 semester, the president got $125 each month, the vice president and treasurer each got $100, and the senate president and president pro tempore also each got $65 every month. The heads of SG agencies Accent Speaker’s Bureau and Student Government Productions also each got $65 every month.
For the spring, though, administrators slashed all the payments to $50 monthly.
Parking passes allow six of those students to park in restricted areas like the service drive to the Reitz Union. The president is the exception, because he or she already gets a Board of Trustees parking pass. The SG passes are intended for official business, and an invoice valued them at $150 each.
Tj Villamil, UF’s incoming Student Body president and exiting treasurer, said these are necessary. He spends most of the day in the Reitz Union, he said, but when he isn’t there, the parking permit helps him get to meetings quickly. Villamil said he to check emails throughout the day on his cellphone.
He knows some students look at meal cards unfavorably. Outside revenue funds can’t go to student activities, though, and he said the benefits are small compared to how much money SG handles.
He said the money could go toward an SG-sponsored charity event, but it can’t directly benefit students.
But Wilson said she is confident someone could figure out a better use for the money. She said the benefits aren’t necessary and distance SG officials from average students and their daily concerns.
UF is the only large state school that gives such perks, but it’s also the lowest-paying in terms of SG officials’ salaries.
Virlany Taboada, the Student Body treasurer for the 2010-2011 year, said she could not have taken the job without the salary. It’s a service to the students, but it’s impossible to also work part-time.
Taboada is a first-generation college student, and her parents saved money for a down payment on a used Nissan Sentra for when she became treasurer. She was responsible for monthly payments, which her salary just covered.
She didn’t think more was needed because it’s a service with invaluable rewards.
“To put a dollar on that — yeah, I think it’s enough,” she said.
But it’s not the salaries that bother Wilson. It’s the benefits, she said.
Villamil pointed out that UF benefits pale in comparison to the five-figure salaries that some officials make at Florida State University, UCF and the University of South Florida.
And she doesn’t care that FSU, UCF and USF pay more people and more per person than UF does for its six salaried SG officials.
They’re independent to her.
“We should be holding ourselves to the highest possible standard in order to represent the students who elected us,” she said.
Part of the debate is what else could be done with this money. Villamil said the outside revenue fund, which includes money from apartment fairs at the Reitz Colonnade and concessions revenues.
Cellphone payments, however, come from student-paid Activity and Service Fee money, according to an invoice.
Villamil said that’s why he wants to keep UF’s current system of salaries and benefits, rather than converting to just salaries — less of it comes from students.
The cellphone money, which is from student fees, is decreasing, and past invoices show that SG officials used to get money for a phone, not just for a plan.
He doesn’t think the students would stand for more of their fees going to officials, and he doesn’t see UF adopting a system like those at FSU, UCF and USF.
“Those kids are getting paid basicallyon students’ Activity and Service Fees,” he said.
Contact Clare Lennon at firstname.lastname@example.org.