Budgeting error results in big cuts to Springfest

By Stefan Deeran

Budget confusion and a scheduling conflict with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan ’61 have forced the Springfest Committee to cut headlining bands and reschedule Springfest, Macalester’s annual daylong music festival, to Friday, April 21.

While Springfest operated with a $40,000 budget last spring, the PB has slashed this amount by a difference of almost $20,000, leaving the tentative budget, which was scheduled to be approved Thursday, at $21,150.

The PB originally allocated the Springfest Committee approximately $37,500 during a meeting held Dec. 1, 2005. But during finals week of fall semester, the PB conducted an internal inquiry with Macalester’s accounting department. While the PB was operating under the assumption that it had a $15,000 positive rollover from 2004-05, it discovered it actually had a negative rollover of approximately $15,000.

The resulting rollover difference, about $31,000, will be voluntarily diffused throughout this semester and fall semester ’06, with the biggest cuts aimed at Springfest.

As a result, the Springfest Committee will not be able to afford proposed headliners, such as The Big Wu and Wookie Foot. Instead, smaller acts will be enlisted to entertain the crowds. Student organizations are also encouraged to participate, supplying this year’s Springfest with a more “grass-roots, local community based” feel, according to Program Board Chair Will Clarke ’07.

Annan’s visit and the unexpected budget crunch will lead to further changes. Springfest is planned to begin outdoors, at a presently undecided Macalester space, Friday afternoon, after classes end. Events may continue into the night in Kagin Commons or the Campus Center, though plans remain unclear. Current acts include The Hopefuls, Capaciti, Kontrast and Macalester alum Nick Africano’s ’05 band Over/Under according to Springfest Coordinator Spencer Edelman `06.

In the PB’s first three years, a $20,000 administrative fund subsidized its events. The PB’s operating budget of $96,000 now comes solely from the $168 student activity fee. Since the administrative subsidy was terminated for 2005-06, Assistant Director of Campus Programs Tara Stormoen-Martinez had stressed the need to maintain a significant contingency fund.

Last year’s Springfest reduced that surplus by going $6,000 over its allotted budget. That Springfest cost more than $40,000 due to the need for a “rain site, extra labor and an extra group [Magic Lantern],” Stormoen-Martinez said.

According to Clarke, the PB had also been “fiscally loose” in keeping accurate tabs of the situation. “Last minute events and lack of foresight led to general confusion in terms of our budgetary system,” Clarke said.

Problems arose due to the difficulty of maintaining accurate weekly account figures. While monthly reports do exist, PB Coordinators and Macalester student orgs that collaborate with the PB often failed to file timely spending reports. If the PB co-sponsors an event with an organization, the student orgs are supposed to transfer their MCSG funds into the PB’s account.

“As an advisor, I regret that I didn’t have closer contact with where the budget was at,” Stormoen-Martinez said.

Further, many student orgs are not spending all of the money in their operating budgets allocated by the Financial Affairs Commission (FAC). Instead, the PB bails out many organizations holding campus wide events. “We are not just acting as a back-up bank account,” Clarke said.

MCSG has a surplus of student organization funds upwards of $40,000. But according to Edelman and Clarke, the Executive Board “has not warmed to the idea” of helping fund Springfest. MCSG representatives did not return requests for comment.

Despite these challenges, Stormoen-Martinez and Clarke recognize the opportunity to fix the unaccountable manner in which the PB budgets campus-wide events and perhaps also more clearly define the PB’s role in collaborating with Springfest and other campus orgs.

Since Springfest is now scheduled to share Friday, April 21 with Earth Day, the vibe should already be appropriate, expressed Edelman. He has suggested combining CHEEBADANZA, Macalester’s annual April 20 marijuana re-legalization festival, with Earth Day, Springfest and Annan’s visit. The four-day extravaganza of activism, anthems and Annan may be dubbed “A Weekend to Remember…or Forget 2006,” according to Edelman.

While the PB finishes a complicated fifth year of existence, Springfest looks to put on its 23rd concert since 1973. Edelman said that the original Springfest developed as a “spontaneous celebration of wonderfulness when a truck of kegs pulled up to the Kirk courtyard.”

Edelman did offer this guarantee: “Springfest is gonna be sweet, there is gonna be beer, there’s gonna be music and there is going to be sunshine.”