Sun Star Budget: The Facts

Andrew Sheeler / Editor-in-Chief
March 1, 2011

It’s time to clear the air about what’s going on with the Sun Star. For the past month, there has been a sea of misconceptions floating around regarding the budget situation of the Sun Star. Here’s the truth.

The Sun Star is expected to post a deficit by the end of Fiscal Year 2011 in June. The size of the deficit is the subject of much debate. Reports from the university’s Banner program project the Sun Star to end the year as much as $26,000 in the red. Our own estimates, compiled from budget records we keep in house, place us in debt at less than half of that. Here’s what that means.

Every year, we receive seven percent of the ASUAF Student Government fee. This fee varies by how many students attend, but for the 2010 –11 school, year we expected to receive a total of $32,000. The remainder of our budget comes from advertising, which we estimated in August would be a little more than $19,000 for the entire year.

There is plenty of blame to assign for what went wrong, and I’ll start by assigning some of it to myself. As editor of the Sun Star, it is my responsibility to make sure the Sun Star remains within its means. That clearly did not happen. According to the Sun Star governance agreement, fiscal responsibility is shared equally between the editor and the paper’s Publication Board. Therefore, some of the blame can be placed on each member of the board, which includes two journalism faculty members, the ASUAF President, the ASUAF Senate Chair and a member of the community who is approved by the other members of the board.

Then there’s the lack of financial reporting. The first report that I saw as editor was in December, after I had independently determined that the Sun Star was in financial trouble. That report contained inaccurate information however, as did the one I received in January and again in February. Sometimes these inaccuracies amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.

There are other contributing factors: the student wage increase, an industry-wide downturn in advertising and an expensive transition to the Sun Star’s first fully functional and consistently updated website and social media presence.

It’s easy to place blame, but doing so is not productive. Mistakes were made. I am a student just like you. Mistakes are part of learning. What’s more important is dealing with the situation at hand. Here’s what is at stake: if ASUAF does not vote to provide the Sun Star with an emergency transfusion of $15,000 out of its surplus funds, the Sun Star will stop printing near the end of March. As much as I love what I do, I will not continue to print the paper. It would leave the Sun Star in debt and handicap next year’s editor.

If our last issue is in March there’s no Fun Star. No graduation issue. No reporting on ASUAF senate meetings and activities. If we suspend printing, there is no voice for the student body of UAF.

I beseech ASUAF to vote in favor of the Sun Star Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2011. I am not here to point fingers, or to demonize anybody. I have immense respect for what the student senators do, even if I occasionally disagree with them. ASUAF has a legacy of supporting vital student services, including the Sun Star. I point out that there is even a precedent for ASUAF providing emergency funding for the student paper. In 2004, ASUAF voted unanimously to provide the Sun Star $10,000 to help the paper remain solvent.

I strongly urge the senators opposed to this bill to reconsider, to think of the consequences if the Sun Star goes away. Since discovering our budget troubles, I have taken a pay cut. I have slashed the hours of Sun Star employees and eliminated some positions. I have run the Sun Star in the most conservative manner possible, sticking with 12-page issues, the cheapest option, as much as possible.

This isn’t about me. This is about the students of UAF. This is about giving voice to the voiceless, which is the Sun Star’s mission.

The fate of our paper rests in the hands of the ASUAF student government. Once again, I implore them to vote in favor of providing the Sun Star with enough money to finish the year out. The UAF students, faculty and staff deserve as much.

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4 Responses

  1. Jennifer Chambers says:

    I heard that your guys’ projections include unreasonable amounts of money in advertising- like 10 thousand more this semester than you made from ads last semester.

  2. Lynne Snifka says:

    Jennifer –
    You are correct. The most recent financial report DOES include that projection. However, we are currently trying to find out where that figure came from. As I explained today to Sabra Phillips, ASUAF’s Executive Officer, the Sun Star (or I should say I, the Sun Star faculty advisor) have given the ASUAF fiscal office just ONE projection for ad revenue for the year. That projection, provided in August 2010, was $19,509.84. That projection was accurate and based on revenue from previous years. Neither Andrew or I have since provided any amended numbers. We are trying to find out how these inaccurate numbers were introduced into the report and hope to have an answer before the ASUAF Executive Committee meeting on Friday.

  3. Lynne Snifka says:

    Also, we did receive a pledge of $7,000 in advertising from Chancellor Rogers in January. I was told today that this money has not been included in any report as it, according to Sabra, “will be reflected as the ads are sold and we collect the revenue in the form of JV’s.”

    I hope this answers your question. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at lsnifka (at) alaska.edu

  4. Jennifer Chambers says:

    While this is not my biggest concern with this editorial, I would like to point out that the ASUAF Senate Chair is not automatically a member of the Publication Board. This year, the ASUAF Senate selected Ryan Duffy to serve as their appointment to the Publication Board and he is also the Senate Chair, but it’s not something that comes with the position of Senate Chair, as the article implies.

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