College Council (CC) has discovered $225,000 that was previously unaccounted for in its accounts and is considering how to put the money back into its budget.
At the beginning of this year’s term, CC Treasurer Jamie Vaccaro ’21 found that CC’s balance, as listed with the controller’s office, was vastly higher than expected, a discrepancy tracing back to the 2016 fiscal year.
The controller’s office first made CC aware of the disparity in mid-February. On Feb. 15, Vaccaro sent a memo to the rest of CC’s executive board notifying them of the accounting surplus. “We have a serious accounting problem,” the memo read as it cited a $374,714 discrepancy between the amount that the controller’s office and that CC itself had listed in CC’s Student Activities Tax (SAT) allocation. This discrepancy has since been reduced; the balance for CC’s SAT allocation is now $225,434. At the last CC meeting on Feb. 26, however, the balance for CC’s accounts was listed as approximately just under $100,000.
This accounting discrepancy arose over the course of the 2016 fiscal year. CC closed out the 2015 fiscal year with a rollover of $4,748 but ended the next fiscal year with a rollover of $210,419. Since this amount is roughly the same as CC’s semesterly SAT disbursement, Vaccaro posits that the treasurer at the time may have simply mistaken it for CC’s semiannual revenue, even though it was actually excess money. “Haley [Lescinsky ’18] and Web [Farabow ’18] came across this a number of years ago, and what it looked like to them was that the amount we have in that account is roughly what a semester’s worth of SAT revenue would be,” he said. “The attitude, based upon what I read, was that we were supposed to be spending our money on a rolling basis, so we were just a semester ahead … which is not accurate.”
CC is now considering how best to work this money back into its yearly budget over a period of time. The current proposal before the Executive Board is the addition of roughly $40,000 to the CC budget per year over the course of the next several years. There is also the question of whether the funds will be disbursed into CC’s general fund, which can be used by any student group or student, or into a restricted use fund, such as the Winter Study fund, the cosponsorship fund or the projects fund, among others. Vaccaro said he believes that placing the surplus into a restricted fund, as opposed to the general fund, might prove the better option. “It’s very difficult to make good decisions on money with very few restrictions on it,” he said.
This surplus also comes as CC has loosened its spending limit. It has reduced the amount by $20,000, which must be kept in the Rainy Day fund, using the excess money in the Winter Study fund as collateral.
According to Vaccaro, as CC decides how to spend this surplus, it will also attempt to understand the accounting practices that led to this large oversight. “Over spring break, I’m going to try to do a deep dive and figure out what the hell is going on,” he said.