Auditors Clarify A.S. Back Taxes, Break Down Student Fees

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Madeleine Lee
Campus Beat Reporter

Associated Students was given a clean bill of financial health by local firm Nasif, Hicks, Harris & Co., LLP at Wednesday’s A.S senate meeting in the Flying A Room.

NHH & Co. conducted an external audit of the association after it was revealed to A.S. administration in fall quarter of 2016 that the non-profit owed approximately $650,000 in back taxes. The back taxes, which were unintentional and nominal over the decade-long span in which they were owed, were simply an oversight error that hinged on the association’s status as a non-profit organization.

After that error was rectified, Sarah Turner of NHH & Co., who spoke to senators at Wednesday’s meeting, pointed to the “unmodified opinion on the financial statements” written in the auditor’s report as “a very good thing.”

Turner mostly focused on the breakdown of Associated Students’ income and expenditures for the 2016 school year.

At the end of the 2015-2016 academic year, Associated Students registration fees alone totaled $7,717,078. Registration fees include all lock-in fees of A.S. entities voted on each spring and paid for by students each quarter.

Program Board, the largest Associated Students entity, spent over one million dollars in 2016 after extensively expanding events offered to include alternative nightlife events on Halloween and Deltopia weekends.

In addition to the five executive members, 24 senators, and judicial branch, A.S. presides over and comprises of 34 individual entities, according to the association’s website, that fall into advocacy, enterprise, media and events, and philanthropy categories.

Representatives from NHH & Co. showed senators a pie chart to illustrate the breakdown of A.S. expenses, which in 2016 totaled almost $8.4 million. Lock-in programs, whose fees are given directly to A.S entities — A.S Bike Committee, Environmental Affairs Board, and Take Back the Night, among others — accounted for 27 percent of A.S. expenditures last year. Staff salaries came in second at 23 percent, and A.S. Program Board and student employment followed at a respective 12 and 9 percent of total expenditures.

Turner took time to remind senators of the rules unique to the association’s non-profit status, focusing in particular on the policy that prohibits excessive campaigning or lobbying for any political candidate, party, or cause.

Though A.S. does preside over lobbying and advocacy groups like the University of California Student Association, Turner assured senators that some level of political advocacy is acceptable, so long as it is not a reflection on the beliefs of the entire organization. If the association were to lose its non-profit status, additional taxes would be owed including income tax on student salaries.

Later in the night, senators turned again to financial matters by tackling a bill that attempted to curtail A.S. Finance and Business Committee expenditures. The bill proposed setting a cap on the amount of funds committee members could grant student conferences at a maximum of $150 per person. Though some senators were in support, others worried that the cap would deter underprivileged students from attending conferences that should be available to them. The bill was sent to internal review, and will be edited and considered again at next week’s meeting.


UPDATE

Feb. 5, 10:25 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that the Office of Student Life is an extension of A.S. The two entities are separate.