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NATALIE WIENBERGER/Herald photo

The Student Services Finance Committee held a training session Monday to familiarize their representatives with the process and prepare for upcoming budget hearings regarding student organizations on campus.

As the sole committee responsible for allocating funds to student organizations, SSFC asks groups that fit proper eligibility criteria — including being accessible to all students and providing unique and specialized service — to draft budgets based on their financial needs.

Once presented with a budget, SSFC negotiates with an approved organization to "trim the fat" from what the committee believes is an acceptable amount to allocate.

Already this semester, committee members have endured hours-long meetings on nights when many University of Wisconsin students were out at State Street bars or house parties, listening to impassioned and sometimes hostile arguments from student-members seeking eligibility for their organization.

"There's a lot of tension, as it's hard to gage what an organization needs to function," SSFC Chair Rachelle Stone said leaving Monday's meeting, where representatives were given a crash course on how to conduct upcoming budget hearings. "And we're working with so much money at one time."

To be sure, SSFC will be handing out more than just a few bucks to organizations hoping to buy pizza for their weekly house meetings.

"Requests vary per organization," SSFC Representative Adam Schlicht said regarding budget proposals organizations must present to them once the committee finds an organization eligible to receive segregated student fee funding. "But, some organizations ask for hundreds of thousands of dollars — some over $400,000."

SSFC has the power to grant organizations every penny of those requests.

"Technically, we can allocate any amount," Stone said. "We don't have a 'pool,' but we have checks and balances."

The enormous amount of money and where it comes from — the tuition dollars of over 30,000 classmates — weighs heavily on the SSFC representatives.

According to Schlicht, the committee tries to "maximize the services the students can receive, but do it in a cost-friendly matter," since students pay for those services with their own tuition money.

"It's difficult. As a student, I don't have a sense of every program every organization does," Schlicht said. "So, I have to research and make sure I'm as informed as I can be, and then be able to think about it all in dollars and cents."

It is a much different task than the one SSFC was faced with when they began this process in early September, when organizations sent in their applications for segregated student fee funding eligibility.

"With eligibility, everything is clear, cut and dry," Schlicht said. "You see if an organization fulfills the 13 criteria and make a decision on that."

Schlicht added, among the 13 criteria, SSFC ranks how inclusive a group is and how groups provide a unique and significant service to the campus environment.

"But, with budgets there are so many other facets to take in consideration," Schlicht said.

It can easily become an overwhelming task, but SSFC representatives said they are looking forward to the challenges they will face in the coming weeks.

"I'm excited," Stone said with a smile. "This committee is prepared, and it has the knowledge and debate skills to make this a smooth and efficient process."