In tonight’s meeting, the Student Services Finance Committee debated RecWell’s proposed 2022 budget, centering around RecWell’s request for an additional $1.20 in segregated student fees.
They also voted to approve the Wisconsin Union’s 2022 budget.
According to RecWell Director Aaron Hobson, the COVID-19 pandemic has been financially difficult for RecWell. In fiscal year 2021, RecWell had projected that they’d make $2.1 million dollars in Alternative Funding— money from sources such as summer youth camps and community gym memberships— Hobson said. Instead, they ended up spending $164,200 to refund such sources.
Hobson said although RecWell would use the proposed increase to keep their budget neutral, 40% of any segregated fee funding would go to RecWell student-worker salaries.
In the open forum, several RecWell employees spoke to how RecWell had improved their lives, voicing their support for Recwell’s proposed budget, including RecWell Aquatic Supervisor Hannah Schlafer.
“As a student user, RecWell has helped me form healthy habits during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schlafer said. “Overall RecWell has made me feel like I have a place on campus, and has helped me play a part in the campus community.”
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But several other students disagreed with RecWell’s request for more Segregated Fee funding.
According to the UW-Madison Bursar website, Segregated Fees are charges, in addition to tuition, that students pay for student services, activities, programs, and facilities that support the University of Wisconsin System. Last Fall, Segregated Fees for full-time students were $734.30.
“I really wish to speak to how lovely RecWell is,” UW graduate student Jack Phillips said. “But I know too many friends who have gotten COVID-19 at RecWell. I don’t get any use for my segregated fees. I’m paying for a glorified mall that’s being used as a marketing technique. They’re making money off of my investment, and I’m not getting a return on that investment.”
During the RecWell Budget hearing, SSFC Rep. Aishan Hurston asked Hobson what RecWell would do if it could not secure a Segregated Fee increase. Hobson said that RecWell would have to reduce hours, and cut programs such as intramurals.
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Hurston then asked Hobson whether RecWell had requested the university for endowment funds. Hobson said they had not.
After the RecWell Budget hearing, SSFC voted on the Wisconsin Union’s budget. Some SSFC representatives voiced concern over approving the Wisconsin Union’s budget, because it would also require increasing segregated fees to raise the Union worker’s minimum wage. After much debate, the SSFC Representative Roshan Verma motioned a vote to approve RecWells proposed budget, but with one stipulation.
“That in the strongest possible terms we recommend that they seek every other avenue of funding besides asking for an increase in Segregated Fees.” Verma said.
The vote passed, 7-2-1. Ultimately, though, only Chancellor Rebecca Banks can approve non-allocated budget spending. The SSFC can only make recommendations. The SSFC tabled the rest of the agenda, which included a hearing for GUTS’s budget.
The next meeting will be on Monday, February 22.
Update: This piece was updated 2/19/21 at 1:49 p.m. to reflect changes about the Wisconsin Union budget decision.