In an attempt to end its long-standing budget shortage, Associated Students is asking students to approve a $10.40 increase to the current quarterly A.S. base fee in an upcoming special election.
The special election specifically arranged for the measure will be held online on GOLD from Nov. 16 to 18. If passed, the A.S. Initiative would raise the base fee students pay to a total of $19.50 per undergraduate per quarter. A.S. President Cervin Morris said money gained from the initiative would go toward A.S. Finance Board, which would control the funds to give to on-campus student groups beginning Winter Quarter. In order to pass, the measure must receive at least two-thirds support from the student body, with a minimum voter turnout of 20 percent of all registered, fee-paying undergraduates, according to the 2004 A.S. By-Laws.
A.S. Executive Director Don Daves-Rougeaux said the current base fee has not been raised since 1972, when there were significantly fewer expenses, although A.S. has repeatedly lobbied for an increase.
Most recently, A.S. tried to raise the base fee by $10 per undergraduate per quarter in fall 2002. Prior to that, the student government asked for the base fee to be raised by $8 per undergraduate per quarter in the spring of 2002. Students were also asked to approve an increase of $5.90 per undergraduate per quarter in the spring of 2001. Students voted down all three measures.
Jared Renfro, external vice president of local affairs, said even with dividends from investments and other A.S. budget-boosters, A.S. is still strapped for the cash needed to support the growing number of student clubs.
“There are more student organizations than before – over 530 organizations and student groups are eligible for funds,” Renfro said. “Things, however, have become incredibly more expensive, and there just isn’t a lot of money for these groups. We are stuck in a revolving door, in a stagnant financial situation. Student groups have less money, less of everything.”
Each undergraduate student currently pays a total of $56.23 every quarter in student services fees, only $9.10 of which goes toward supporting the organization’s administrative costs and funding student clubs. The remaining money goes toward lock-in fees specifically allocated to other on-campus organizations – such as the Women’s Commission, KCSB radio station and the Daily Nexus – and A.S. is prohibited from using monies generated from lock-ins.
A.S. currently uses the $9.10 it receives per quarter from each undergraduate to fund its operating budget and entities such as the Queer Commission, Student Lobby and the Public Safety Committee. After allocating money to internal A.S. organizations, the remaining funds are put into an unallocated fund, from which Finance Board draws to allot to on-campus clubs to pay for student-sponsored events.
Daves-Rougeaux said every club receives about $150 per quarter from A.S. and can usually request more money as needed.
But Finance Board gave out all of this quarter’s unallocated funds last month, leaving some clubs empty-handed for the rest of the quarter. Morris said A.S. has not been able to supply adequate funding this year, and the current base fee is not enough to sustain the present costs of running the organization.
“We were only able to meet one group’s full request, and after three weeks, we don’t have any money left for this quarter,” Morris said. “The base fee was fine until the late 1990s, but we have grown a lot and have acquired a lot of overhead cost.”
Daves-Rougeaux said that when financial problems like this have developed in the past, A.S. was able to recharge lock-in fees. A recharge fee taxes a percentage of the income generated from a lock-in fee to pay for the bookkeeping costs of the accounts.
“Recharges have happened every year for 10 years and was covering costs of clubs and organizations as well as operating costs,” Daves-Rougeaux said.
Passing the A.S. Initiative would, in the long term, allow current groups with these lock-in fees to provide additional services to the campus community because they would not have to pay recharge fees, Daves-Rougeaux said. If the initiative fails, A.S. must revisit the number of recharges to the current lock-ins, he said.
“There will be some tough decisions that will have to be made if the initiative doesn’t pass,” Daves-Rougeaux said. “We essentially would have to increase the recharges, which would decrease services to organizations.”
Felicia Cruz, external vice president of statewide affairs, said UCSB’s base fee is low in comparison to other UCs. She said the current base fee at UCSD is $21 and at UC Irvine it is $54. Cruz said there is no other reliable way of getting money if the initiative does not pass.
“A.S. is not only the student voice, but it supplies so many different things; people don’t realize how much A.S. has a presence on campus,” Cruz said.
Renfro said as the student community develops, A.S. needs room to grow.
“When the student community changes and student organizations want to step forward and do something new, we simply won’t be able to fund it, and this weakens the overall community,” Renfro said. “We don’t want to have to keep asking students for money.”