University Fee May Increase by $5

    Andrew Oh/UCSD Guardian

    Come April, students may be asked to vote on a new fee increase. On Feb. 2, University Centers Advisory Board Chair Nicole Metildi presented a referendum to A.S. Council that, if passed, would raise the University Centers Fee by $5 to $81.50 per quarter, and be adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index.

    The “Student Center Fee” was renamed the “University Center Fee” in 1984, when Price Center West was built. It now supports Price Center East and West, as well as the Student Center and the Che Café complex, by funding maintenance, repairs and operation costs.

    UCSD spent $49, 980 in 2010 to commission a Facilities Condition Analysis to provide an account of predicted expenditures as well as estimates for long-term planning purposes. The study revealed that, in the next 10 years, Price Center will require maintain while the Student Center and Che Café require $2.6 million and $722,000, respectively.

    “There were astronomical costs predicted in the next decade or so that we are going to have to pay, so all of these fees are pretty necessary,” Metildi said. “If we don’t increase our reserves, we’re going to go into the red.”

    According to University Centers Director Paul Terzino, the UCEN budget of over $10 million will go into a deficit of $108,516 by 2015 unless there is financial assistance. Inflation has caused the costs associated with maintenance and operation to escalate, while the fee has stayed steady since 2003. Stabilizing enrollment figures have also exacerbated decreased revenue, as fixed enrollment numbers do not provide increased revenue.

    Additionally, the reserve funds of about $3 million will deplete to zero in 2015 if no change is made. Reserves fund repair and replacement projects, like keeping equipment up to date and preventing facility resources from deteriorating. The increase in the facilities fee will maintain current maintenance standards.

    The quarterly facilities fee — currently $76.50 — would be subject to a five-dollar increase as well as the annual Consumer Price Index adjustment, and would close the gap currently leading to deficits in the University Centers budget.

    The referendum’s Consumer Price Index adjustment, which varies by year and is generally under 5 percent, will keep the revenues in line with inflation rates — making it easier to maintain facilities and operations when prices rise or fall overall. The CPI adjustment is now used to annually adjust the A.S. Activity fee, the RIMAC fee and the Intercollegiate Athletic fee.

    “This referendum takes care of our needs for a long time,” Terzino said. “We don’t want to have to keep coming back to increase it, and increasing the fee by the Consumer Price Index really helps the long term viability of the facilities here.”

    According to Metildi’s presentation, if there is no fee increase, students will find Price Center less convenient since students will be charged for the equipment and room use, facility resources and spaces will deteriorate and hours of operation will reduce.

    Terzino said they do not know if those effects will occur.

    “We’re not panicking yet,” Terzino said. “I don’t have any numbers. We’ll raise as little as we have to … We are looking into possibly charging higher rates for our services. We are not currently charging for the use of AV equipment, but we’ll have to start charging for that as well as charging student orgs for using meeting rooms.”

    Currently, Price Center East is open 24 hours a day. Terzino said such hours will be unsustainable without a fee increase. Terzino believes a 24-hour access is important for students.

    “There can be as many as 200 to 300 students here at two in the morning,” Terzino said. “Certainly around midterms and finals.”

    Vendors such as Tapioca Express and Burger King also see significant business when they stay open all night.

    “A lot of students go to the Price Center for the late-night retail and late night vendors,” Metildi said. “We can see that the students want the buildings to be open.”

    Metildi said the fee increase has not had strong opposition from students.

    “The general response is pretty positive,” Metildi said. “I think people realize we’re not trying to raise it an enormous amount, we’re just trying to maintain a steady fee to cover the costs of maintaining the building.”

    Revelle College junior Vashisht Madabhushi is ambivalent about the increase.

    “I agree with the increase in price, but only for Price Center,” Madabhushi said. “I don’t believe that the Che Cafe has enough student involvement to merit getting the money, and I am indifferent about the student center.”

    To make it on the spring election ballot, A.S. Council must pass the referendum by a two-thirds majority. It must then pass in the Graduate Student Association with a two-thirds majority.

    If the proposal appears on the ballot in the spring of 2011, and at ;east 20 percent of the student population votes, a simple majority of that population is needed to pass the referendum. If approved, it will go into effect Fall Quarter of 2012.

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