Four years after receiving its lock-in fee, Transportation & Parking Services is now asking students to increase the rate they pay – despite resistance from its oversight board.
TPS said it needs the increase to account for inflation since the original $3.33 per student per quarter fee passed in 2003. The fee pays for a student night and weekend on-campus parking permit. The organization, an enterprise fund separate from the university, also wants help to pay for two new parking structures – 10 Parking, on the east side of campus, and 22 Parking, next to the Events Center – payments for which will significantly increase in 16 months.
Several faculty members, staff and students have opposed TPS’ attempts to raise fees, which would increase $2 over the next two years. These dissenters ask that TPS find different methods of generating revenue, such as renting parking spaces to I.V. residents or adding advertising in parking structures. They are also asking for more transparency in TPS’ expenditures.
Ultimately, the decision will come down to a student vote, if TPS can gather enough petition signatures. It can take one of two ways to get on the ballot. The first would be done by obtaining a petition signed by a certain number of undergraduate students equaling 50 percent of the total number of voters in the previous year’s Associated Students presidential election. Therefore, it would need roughly 2,000 signatories.
Or, it could ask the A.S. Legislative Council to approve the ballot measure. Whether the council is willing to do so remains to be seen. Either way, TPS would then need a 50 percent plus one voter approval in the spring election to win its increase.
Currently, TPS’ income covers all of its expenditures, including operating costs as well as its debt payments for Mesa, 10 and 22 Parking, which together total $2.2 million. In fact, over the past 10 years it has accumulated a reserve of money through permit rate increases that were used to put down $7 million on the two new parking structures, said Communications Services Planning & Resources Manager Robert Silsbee.
However, Silsbee said, TPS is currently paying only the debt interest for 10 and 22 Parking. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2008, TPS will begin to make principal-plus-interest payments for all three parking structures. Beginning that year, and for about 30 years following, TPS will be paying nearly $3.4 million for the structures alone – an amount it says it cannot afford with its current revenue.
Silsbee put the ratio of TPS expenditures and revenue to the scale of the monthly parking permit, which costs $36. He said from each permit, TPS will spend $7 on Mesa Parking, $7 on 10 Parking, $10 on 22 Parking and $14 on operating costs, which means it will be $2 in the hole for each $36 permit.
He said TPS would like to see that deficiency made up for in the student night and weekend lock-in fee by $1 each year over the next two years. He is facing resistance, however, from the Parking Ratepayer Board, a parking oversight committee established in 2004.
At the Feb. 7 Ratepayer Board meeting, graduate student and Ratepayer Board member Kate Deutsch questioned how many students are actually utilizing the parking lots on nights and weekends, and suggested organizing a survey on GOLD to obtain student input. She said without this information, TPS should not ask students for more money.
“This is all under the assumption that students are getting the good side of the deal,” Deutsch said. “You guys could be making money on students and now you’re talking about raising rates.”
But Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management Marc Fisher said UCSB’s parking rates are already less expensive than many comparable UC campuses.
“Our rates are some of the lowest in the system,” he said. “I think San Diego and L.A. are between $50 and $100 [per month].”
Fisher also noted that in the past few years almost all parking rates were raised, with the exclusion of the student night and weekend fee. For example, the monthly parking permit fee was gradually raised from $15 in the 1997 fiscal year to $36 in Nov. 2005.
“If we’re raising rates across the board to pay for the new structures, the idea of not raising rates for one group doesn’t make sense,” Fisher said.
The Ratepayers continued their discussion by challenging some TPS expenditures.
Board Member Douglas Morgan, an economics professor on campus, said TPS are is being used by the administration to pay for campus-wide improvements – including the design for signs used around campus.
“Facilities Management went out and decided the design color and type [for signs around campus, including in parking areas], then Parking had to pay for it,” Morgan said. “Design should be a campus expense. Parking was ripped off to pay for the design of signs over the entire campus.”
To sidestep the issue of raising student fees, the Ratepayers suggested TPS come up with more creative ways to generate revenue. The board approved a motion with four approving and two abstaining to recommend that Chancellor Henry T. Yang run an experiment renting 100 spaces to students living in I.V. The motion states that students who wish to store their cars off the streets could pay $72 per month for a space in 22 Parking.
Juxtaposed to TPS’ current budgetary battle, the organization has successfully opened two levels of the long-awaited 22 Parking, located next to the new Student Resource Building. Vice Chancellor Fisher was pleased with the opening, but was concerned that students may not know they can park there.
“There were only about 40 cars in there,” he said of the structure he visited shortly after it opened. “I don’t think students realize it’s open yet.”