James Membreno/ Courier A student walks in front of the Student Services Center on Wednesday, November 6, 2019.
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PCC’s Student Services division is reinforcing policy after an internal audit identified misuse of public funds under the guidance of Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistant Team (FCMAT) financial policies, a California organization involved in public education funding, according to the Associated Student’s (AS) board meeting on Oct. 23.

After PCC administration officials missed the errors, financial laws are now being reinforced as an effort to follow a long-standing law outlined in the California Constitution’s Article XVI Public Finance, Section 6, which prohibits public agencies from making a gift of public funds to any individual, public employee, corporation or to another government agency. California’s current constitution with this article was ratified on May 7, 1879.

The update will primarily affect the way groups under Student Services operates their raffles and incentives at events. Raffle prizes were previously purchased using public funds, and should not have been. PCC swag presented to show personal gratitude purchased with public funds are also prohibited.

Assistant Superintendent and Vice President of Student Services Cynthia Olivo explained that she believes the issue would still have been caught without FCMAT’s Student Centered Funding Formula. Olivo reviews all expenditures in the categorical funds she supervises on an annual basis.

“I told my Dean of Student Life [Rebecca Cobb] to use this time as a teachable moment for Associated Students,” said Olivo. “Administrators are responsible for managing and administering budgets. It is in the standard practice of training for administrators to learn and understand the gift of public funds law. They [administrators] make budgetary decisions, so that’s why the training and knowledge rests on their shoulders. They must know this information and follow it within their programs.”

Student Affairs Advisor Carrie Afuso, overseer of AS, explained that because their raffle prizes purchased with public funds do not benefit the public student body, AS can no longer use these incentives. Afuso, a classified staff member, is not responsible for knowing financial laws, according to Olivo.

“This is the year that we’ve discovered we cannot give out gift cards,” said Afuso. “AS used to do raffles. What they’d do is partnerships with, say, the Student Health Center (SHC), and buy an iPad and gift cards, usually to the bookstore. So, we would do that as an incentive, but we’re being told that if you’re not giving it to everyone, you can’t do it.”

For example, at the SHC event, visitors would have a passport to be stamped. If a student received enough stamps on their passport by visiting multiple tables, the student would be entered in a raffle drawing for one of the prizes.

Associated Students President Dionne Shelton was previously unaware of this issue until Cobb brought it up at their meeting. Previously, AS would spend approximately $200 per event on gift card raffles, according to Shelton.

“It all depended on who was interpreting that law or that policy,” said Shelton. “I feel like people interpret things differently. So, for a long time we were under the impression that if we had bought these things, and we were giving them to students, even if it was a raffle, that it was okay because of the interpretation that was told.”

Student Services does not anticipate any further spending issues related to FCMAT’s policies or legal conflicts, according to Olivo. 

Cobb and OSL administrative assistant Siria Lovett will hold a FCMAT workshop related to AS spending on Monday, Nov. 18 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Creveling Lounge.

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