Plump ice cream sandwiches file into the breezeway by the boxful. Lofty bouncy-houses expand with air on the dewy baseball outfield. Vibrant streamers of red, blue, green and orange cascade from the Binks gym ceiling.
Each year, the Associated Student Body (ASB) allocates tens of thousands of dollars towards activities and events for students. Making these financial decisions, for students, by students, is no small task.
“It can sometimes be hard to decide how to divide up money,” ASB treasurer sophomore Max Roitblat said. “The first instinct is to look back at the previous year’s budget, but there is never the exact same amount of money year to year so you can’t rely only on that.”
The budget, used for everything from cotton candy machines to the homecoming dance, comes almost entirely from parents, Roitblat said. At walk-through and online registration before the school year starts, parents can choose to make donations to the ASB class either directly or through purchasing tickets for specific events and student cards. This year, the class started with a budget of $7,600 and then made a $34,000 income during registration.
“The only other way that ASB can receive money is through the small fundraisers that we put on throughout the year like ‘Match-O-matics’ and ‘Heart-O-Grams,’” Roitblat said.
Once the budget has been collected, ASB is tasked with deciding the details of how best to spend it. Roitblat said that when ASB is not sure about a purchase, the class will take a vote.
“The things that most commonly are approved by the class are things that can have a long-term benefit on the school and save future ASB classes money since they won’t have to buy the item again,” said Roitblat, who balances the budget and allots money for ASB events. “For instance, buying a popcorn machine may seem like a crazy expense, but if it’s put to a vote, it would most likely be approved since it’s cheap to maintain and wouldn’t have to be rented again.”
While many might first think of rallies and dances when they think of ASB and money, the class also oversees other school budget decisions such as athletic expenditures.
“We’re in charge of everything, so whenever somebody spends something for athletics, like they get new jerseys or they have someone come out and film their games, we have to approve that expenditure,” ASB faculty advisor Mercedes Foster said.
Foster has spent a total of eight years in her role. Over this time period she has noticed changes in both how the budget is regulated and how the class allocates it.
“Some classes have a lot of interest in tiny, little, all-across-the-year expenditures for, like, buying everybody pencils or making sure everybody can get donut holes for a testing day or something like that,” Foster said. “Then other years it’s like, ‘No, let’s not do the little nickel-and-dime things, let’s have like three really big events.’”
Foster also said that over the years, as she has gotten more training, the administration has become much more aware of the legality of the way money is spent.
One legal complication that arises with school clubs is their inability to donate money to outside programs.
“Say the video game club wants to donate to a children’s hospital to buy games for kids,” Foster said. “We can’t take it from their account at school and donate it because every bit of money that goes into an Associated Student Body account has to be spent on or for the benefit of the students that paid into it.”
ASB calls such uses of money “disbursements,” or, as Roitblat said, just any money that is being given out by the school for any purpose. The life cycle for a disbursement is long and tedious: once a request passes the treasurer and ASB class, it is submitted to co-interim principal Irma Muñoz for approval. Then, they wind up at the desk of math teacher and school accountant Edmund Mahoney to be looked over and recorded between lessons on mathematical functions and multivariable calculus.
“[Mahoney] is the person who actually logs the money going in and out of the school and cuts the physical checks,” Roitblat said.
Lastly, roughly every year a state auditor checks over each transfer of money. The auditing firm Vavrinek Trine Day & Co. LLP, which conducted last year’s audit, concluded that ASB funds at PMS were not collected in a timely manner and some documentation was missing. The audit also found that MHS needed a more effective tracking method for cash collection and documentation, according to the East Bay Times.
“Money that goes into our school must go directly back to benefit the students in some regard, so the auditor checks to make sure nothing fishy is going on with our expenditures,” Roitblat said.
One use of money that directly benefits the students is the funding of school clubs. According to the ASB Constitution, student organizations can make check requests as well as petty cash requests for up to $200. While cash requests must be repaid within 30 days, all outstanding monetary obligations have to be repaid by the end of the school year or the club will lose eligibility for future financial services. However, Foster said these requests are fairly uncommon.
“It’s pretty rare that [clubs request grants] actually. Mostly clubs have their own fundraising or don’t involve a financial aspect at all,” Foster said. “But occasionally there will be fundraiser that we have to approve and then all the money that the clubs make has to go through us.”
Roitblat said that ASB’s big-ticket disbursement is usually Winter Ball, as they paid $18,000 to the Sequoyah Country Club this year for hosting the event. Students often wonder why tickets are so expensive, Roitblat said, but they do not consider the little things that all add up.
“Students often say, ‘Hey, tickets to Winter Ball were $85 each, that’s a lot of money for just dinner and dancing, where does it all go?’” Foster said. “What they don’t realize is the little things aren’t little, so we can put $800 for a DJ, we can do 12 to 14 thousand dollars for the venue and the food, the flowers were $600, the vases for the flowers for 25 tables were several hundred dollars. It’s so weird how quickly it goes up.”
After Winter Ball, ASB’s next largest expenditure is Day On the Green, which they are currently in the midst of planning. Roitblat predicted that Day on the Green would add another 10 to 11 thousand dollars to their expenses this year, which now sit at $29,500.
At the end of the day, ASB is a non-profit and limits their profit on each event accordingly, Foster said.
“The goal is to make a little bit of money on everything we do that brings in money so we can spend it on little events at school or save it up for Day on the Green,” Foster said. “But by the end of the year we have to have a 10 percent balance of what we started with [at the beginning of the year] and that’s it.”