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BOT to discuss parking fee increase

With rule changes, budget discussions, degree approvals and master plan discussions, today’s meeting of the USF Board of Trustees at the USF Sarasota campus seemed as though it should be a mundane affair.
It might have played out that way, except for one other item on the agenda: a vote to approve a new parking fee.
If approved at the meeting, which will be held in the Sudakoff Center at 1:30, the proposed new fee will raise the price of student parking decals by five dollars. Greg Sylvester, director for Parking Services, said the money gained from the fee will be used toward construction of a new parking garage located north or south of the Library.
Sylvester said the issue at hand for the BOT involves finding the money to construct the new garage, which he said will cost between $13 and $14 million. He said he will be ready for the board’s concerns.
“I think it’s a good thing for them to ask the hard questions about cost and whatnot,” he said. “Obviously, you don’t just plunk a parking structure in the middle of campus and think it’ll just work.”Sylvester has already presented the plan to a board committee and will speak today only if necessary. It seems, however, the new fee may not move as easily through the board as Sylvester would like. Student government president Mike Griffin, who serves on the board, said he disagrees with the proposal because of the fact that a two dollar parking access fee had previously been approved at the end of the fall 2001 semester.
“The fact that they want to raise the decal fee next year on top of implementing the new fee, I don’t think that’s right,” Griffin said. Griffin said his concern lies in the fact that students are paying more for parking. He said he doesn’t understand the philosophy of the new fee.
“It’s kind of like, if we don’t pass this access fee, instead of being $105, it could have been $150 next year,” Griffin said. “They could have done it.”
Sylvester said he has spoken with Griffin and doesn’t understand why he is upset. He said Griffin was aware at the time of voting on the access fee that an increased decal fee would go before the board.
“I know why he’s opposed to it in principle,” Sylvester said. “It’s one thing to be opposed to it, and it’s another to say I didn’t think it was going to be this way. We’ve had a very frank conversation.”
Sylvester said the money for the new garage must come from access fees and decals, and that he has tried to find a mix of both that will work. Sylvester said he and Griffin simply have opposite opinions.
“We’ve looked at a lot of different options,” he said. “He and I have some different perspectives on that.”
Griffin said he is working on a solution to the problem that will avoid an increased fee for students while allocating enough money to construct the new garage. He said he is looking at other universities around Florida to learn what works best and to formulate his discussion points for today’s meeting.
“I’m not going to go in there blazing saddles or anything,” Griffin said. “(But) I didn’t just walk in here today and feel this way. I’ve been singing this song for over a year.”
Board chairman Dick Beard said he approved the new fee at the committee level but is concerned about Griffin’s objections.
“I’m hopeful that maybe we can find a way to relook at this thing again because I’m not 100 percent sure I understand what his opposition is,” Beard said.
Beard said the board receives more complaints about parking than any other problem. He said his concern is fixing that problem.
“Would you rather keep the fee down or have the parking?” Beard asked.
As for Griffin, Beard said they will listen to his suggestions, as long as enough money remains to take care of parking needs.
“If there’s another way to skin the cat, that’s fine,” he said. “I just don’t want us to find ourselves with not enough income to fix parking.”
Beard said while the presentation will be held at this BOT meeting, there is no guarantee the issue will be resolved.
“We don’t want (Griffin) to feel tricked,” he said. “If it gets to the point where we have to delay it, we’ll delay it.”