Students voting in the rapidly approaching Spring Election may notice this quarter’s ballot features only fee reaffirmations – no new or increased fees – alongside candidates for Associated Students offices.
Voting on the four campus-wide and two A.S. lock-in fee reaffirmations, as well as the candidates for A.S. Legislative Council and the executive offices, begins on GOLD April 23 at 8 a.m. and ends April 26 at 4 p.m.
Campuswide and A.S. lock-in fees differ in the way in which they are filed, whether with the Campuswide Elections Committee or through A.S. Legislative Council. Campuswide fee reaffirmations appear on the ballot every four years, with A.S. lock-in fees placed on the ballot every two years.
The four campuswide fee reaffirmations are for the Events Center, Arts & Lectures, the Office of Student Life and the Shoreline Preservation Fund. Currently, these organizations also receive an A.S. lock-in fee due to the passage this fall of the Students’ Initiative.
Both undergraduates and graduates will vote on The Shoreline Initiative for SPF, while voting on the three other campuswide reaffirmations is open only to undergraduates. The two A.S. lock-in fee reaffirmations fund campus media – the La Cumbre Yearbook and the Daily Nexus – and undergraduate night and weekend parking.
The fees will remain on students’ quarterly bills unless 60 percent of voters choose not to reaffirm – and of course, this applies only if at least 20 percent of students turn out to vote.
Transportation & Parking Services currently receives $3.33 per student per quarter from undergrads to pay for night and weekend parking permits. The organization went to Leg Council’s April 4 meeting and requested that a fee increase be placed on the ballot so it could cover debt payments and operating expenses – and still offer night and weekend parking for students. They said with the current $3.33 fee they could not continue to provide parking for students, and would instead return the money in favor of charging individually for night and weekend parking.
The members voted not to place a fee increase on the ballot because they said TPS had not provided them with enough information to prove the organization’s need for the extra funding. The Graduate Student Association did vote to increase its night and weekend lock-in fee on the ballot, bringing it from $4 up to $5 per student per quarter.
Marc Fisher, associate vice chancellor of campus design and facilities, said if the undergraduate lock-in fee passes, it will be up to Chancellor Henry T. Yang to decide the circumstances of fee usage – if TPS is able to return the lock-in fee to students and charge for night and weekend parking on an individual basis, or if the organization must take the $3.33, offer night and weekend parking to undergrads and find another method of paying off its impending debt. The Ratepayer Board – a faculty-student committee that helps oversee TPS – will make a suggestion at its May 2 meeting to the chancellor, either in support of or opposition to using the fee as it currently stands.
“If it passes, it’ll go back to the Ratepayer Board. They’ll struggle with it and then after making a recommendation, it will go to the chancellor,” Fisher said.
Under the current fiscal model and lock-in fee rate, Fisher said TPS would not make the required debt service on the parking structures during the 2008-2009 year and beyond. He said he and other university officials as well as students and A.S. staff had discussed at a meeting Tuesday future options such as using Students’ Initiative money or reducing weekend services. However, he said it is unlikely students will know about the future of payment for night and weekend parking until June of this year, if the lock-in passes.
“No one wants to see students lose the service,” Fisher said. “But we won’t make the required debt service [on the parking structures] with the current fiscal models.”
As for the Campus Media A.S. lock-in fee, the $1.69 per student per quarter helps fund both the Daily Nexus and La Cumbre Yearbook. Students pay $0.85 per quarter for the Nexus, and $0.57 during the summer session, and $0.84 for the La Cumbre Yearbook, and $0.56 during the summer.
Storke Publications Director Jerry Roberts said the Nexus’ lock-in fee provides the newspaper with about 7 percent of its budget, or about $48,000 last year. La Cumbre received approximately about one-third of its budget, or $47,000 through the lock-in fee.
He said the two media sources benefit students by providing records of university and community matters.
“The Nexus provides the most comprehensive news report on the university,” Roberts said. “It’s a great bargain for the price.”
Alan Kirby, director of the UCen and Events Center, said the reaffirmation for the Events Center lock-in serves students by revamping and updating the Thunderdome. The major plans for the $4 per student per quarter – excluding summer – include new acoustic panels, arena lighting and a new sound system for the almost 30-year-old building. With the passage of the Students’ Initiative, the Events Center also collects an additional $4 per student per quarter fee, including summer, with a $1.00 return-to-aid surcharge.
“The Events Center was built in 1979 and requires a lot of maintenance,” Kirby said. “The goal is to make it a much better facility.”
The Arts & Lectures’ $2 per student per quarter fee, including summer, is also on the ballot for reaffirmation. Heather Silva, assistant to the director of A&L, said the four-year-old fee provides students with tickets for films, performances and lectures at a discount of up to 65 percent. It has also allowed the organization to increase the number of free events it is able to offer. In addition, A&L receives a quarterly fee of $2.67 per student per quarter with $0.67 in return-to-aid from the Students’ Initiative.
“We’re hoping students continue to support Arts & Lectures and allow us to continue offering free events and discounted ticket prices for students,” Silva said.
According to Carolyn Buford, associate dean of students, the Student Life Program Fee is crucial for the Office of Student Life to continue its educational, leadership and first-year programs, such as workshops and retreats. Buford said the fee of $1.75 per regular academic quarter and $1.00 for summer, approved four years ago, saved many of OSL’s programs from termination. The OSL also receives $2 per student for each of the four quarters from the Students’ Initiative, $0.50 of which is a return-to-aid surcharge.
“The leadership and first-year programs are completely funded by these fees,” Buford said. “This fee brought back the basics to OSL and with the Students’ Initiative fee we were able to augment our programs.”
The only campuswide fee open for voting by both graduate and undergraduate students is the Shoreline Initiative. Scott Bull, the student affairs advisor of the Shoreline Preservation Fund, said the fee of $3 per quarter, excluding summer, provides grants to various organizations and individuals with proposals associated with coastal work. In addition to the fee up for reaffirmation during this election, SPF receives $3.33 per quarter, including summer – $0.83 of which is return-to-aid – from the passage of the Students’ Initiative.
SPF funds a variety of projects, such as water-quality monitoring and restoring Lagoon Island. Bull said two major plans for the upcoming year include improving beach access stairways, at an estimated cost of $400,000, and renovating a path from Del Playa to Sands Beach at a cost of about $250,000.
“A lot of what we do is fund improvements to the natural areas around campus or to projects students are directly involved in,” Bull said.