Graduate Student Association funds unavailable while finalizing contract

GSA waiting on Faculty Student Association to sign contract and release funds

gsameeting

The Graduate Student Association's funds are temporarily unavailable, as the Faculty Student Association, the new fiscal agent for student governments, has yet to sign its contract with GSA.

In May, UB announced FSA would replace Sub-Board I, the previous fiscal agent for student governments, effective July 1. FSA has since absorbed all student governments’ $3.2 million in investment accounts over the last three months. SBI and GSA filed a lawsuit against the university in June to temporarily restrain the removal of SBI along with all subsequent actions. On July 30, State Supreme Court judge Tracey Bannister dismissed the lawsuit, leading GSA to cooperate with the transition.

Now, a week into the academic year, GSA’s funds are not available, costing clubs out-of-pocket expenses without students knowing when they will be reimbursed.

GSA is waiting for FSA’s signature on its new contract. From there, according to GSA Vice President Connor Walters, it will take at least a few weeks to get the bank account up and running. 

“The transition for all other governments took the full three-month period,” Carrie Woodrow, the director of business compliance and internal controls, said. “Now that GSA will also be transitioning to FSA, we are working to expedite their transition and make funds available to them as soon as possible.”

GSA clubs also need to find money in their allotted budgets for taxes. Since GSA’s incorporation, GSA and its clubs are no longer tax exempt. Approval for tax exemption through the IRS could take anywhere from six to nine months, according to Director of Operations for GSA Stephanie George. 

Walters said if SBI stayed at UB for at least another year, GSA could have worked toward getting its own tax exemption.

Woodrow said regardless of the transition, student governments were going to be incorporating and consequently would have had to apply for tax exemption.

Amber Rivera, vice president for GSA’s chemistry club, is paying out of pocket for club costs without knowing when she’ll be reimbursed.

“We’re now on the hook for our own events, even though we have this money that’s been guaranteed to us,” Rivera said. “We just can’t access it and have no way of accessing it.”

Abigail Snyder, president of the chemistry club, and Rivera found out they have to find roughly $400 in their roughly $3,000 budget for taxes, which used to be exempt through SBI.

“We’ve been in contact with GSA, we were apart of the SBI protests and we’ve been aware of what’s going on,” Snyder said. “So we did know what was happening, we just didn’t necessarily know what the effects were going to be.”

Walters said the turnaround for getting reimbursed is usually much faster.

“So right now yes, if student clubs want to run events … they are paying out of pocket,” Walters said. “It would have been a much faster turnaround if we were up and running on [more] reimbursements than there are now.”

Woodrow said FSA is working to finalize GSA’s contract and urged students not to cover their clubs’ expenses in the meantime. 

“We do not encourage any student to pay for club expenses until such a time that their government has secured a fiscal agent,” Woodrow said. “This is only an issue for GSA as they did not participate in the transition during their lawsuit.”

Brittany Gorny is the senior news editor and can be reached at brittany.gorny@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @BrittanyUBSpec.