AMS proposes deadline change to improve budget process

To fix a timeline described by VP Finance Lucia Liang as “not realistic,” the AMS is considering tweaking its budget process.

The proposal — brought forth by the Finance Committee, which Liang chairs — would amend code to change the preliminary budget deadline from May 31 of each year to the end of the executives’ terms on April 30.

The change comes after no preliminary budget was passed at all in 2019 and the AMS had to suspend code to postpone the deadline. The issue was then referred to the Governance Committee and the Finance Committee to come up with a better schedule.

Under the current timeline, since the Finance Committee is appointed in mid-May, all matters regarding the preliminary budget currently have to be decided in one meeting before the final budget is due. Making the preliminary budget deadline earlier will allow for a longer consultation period between when the preliminary budget is passed and when the budget must be finalized in June.

Liang said that as part of the AMS’s goal to “build systems that work with systems and not rely on people,” senior managers and executives were asked to come in and offer feedback on the budget. But due to the budget’s short timeline the executives’ annotations were written for committee use only and not released as part of the public budget.

To address this, the preliminary budget will also be expanded for transparency to make it easier to understand for those taking part in the consultation process.

Budget History

The preliminary budget was introduced in 2000 with an April 30 deadline as a measure to present a budget on time, since the final budget was typically delayed past its May 1 deadline into the summer or even fall. The final budget deadline was then moved to June 30. Nevertheless, the preliminary budget was also late by up to two weeks 12 times out of 15 between 2000 and 2015, said AMS Archivist Sheldon Goldfarb.

In 2015, the turnover date for AMS executives was changed from late February to May 1 to avoid disrupting the school year. To prevent the preliminary budget deadline being the day before the VP Finance would take office, the deadline was changed to May 31 in 2017.

Because of preliminary work done by the outgoing VP Finance each year — including a “pre-preliminary budget” in 2017 — this deadline has been met ever since, that is, until 2019.

But the short timeline resulted in a practice where “the preliminary budget was essentially written by the VP Finance before,” said Liang. “The budgets from before … often look very similar and it's because not many changes have been done since you're only in office for a month,” said Liang.

Alim Lakhiyalov, the VP Finance in 2017-2018, said that “the system was unworkable” and “recommended that budgeting begin much earlier,” according to a report obtained from the AMS.

The proposal will be discussed at the February 5 AMS Council meeting.