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Campus housing rates to increase

Students who want to live on campus next year can expect to pay an average of $150 more for housing next year.

Thursday morning, the Board of Trustees Fiscal Workgroup approved a 3.5 to 4 percent increase in housing costs for the fall, pending further investigations of whether the increase should be even higher. Some trustees felt that a greater increase would be necessary. Rates rose 6 percent this past fall. Rates rose 4 to 6 percent the year prior.

Tom Kane, director of Residence Services, presented the rate increase proposal to the workgroup.

He said the proposed increases were necessary to cover cost of living increases, cost of utilities increases and a new cable upgrade requested by the Residence Hall Association.

According to Kane, rising salaries, oil prices and the new minimum wage amendment are all factors affecting the rate increases.

The cost for a student to live in an Andros or Beta/Castor double unit for the 2004-05 academic year was $2,988, and for the 2005-06 academic year it will be $3,108.

Kane also presented the statement of revenue and expenditures for Residence Services with the proposal to show the need for the rate increase. The trustees were not keen on the 3.5 to 4 percent increase to begin with, because they were worried it would not be enough.

“It just looks scary on the outside,” trustee Lee Arnold said about the financial numbers of Residence Services, referring to a lack of reserve funds. “Is our rent too low, are our costs getting too high?”

“This is the minimum increase you could possibly ask for,” Chief Financial Officer for USF Carl Carlucci said. “It’s a break-even bucket.”

“I don’t think we ought to be doing that,” Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dick Beard said in reply. “I want (to keep the rate increase as modest as possible) too, but we need a financially sound housing operation.”

“You have to cover your debt and you have to cover your operating expenses,” Arnold said. “Everything doesn’t run break-even, you have to have a little room.”

Eventually the original rate increase proposal was passed, but with stipulations.Residence Services must prove that the 3.5 to 4 percent increase would provide “debt service coverage of 1.2 percent,” according to Beard.

“The numbers we saw didn’t prove to me that that was right,” Beard said.

He also said that the Board wanted to make absolutely sure that all “cost increases were covered from an expense standpoint.”

If Residence Services can prove that the proposed increase would satisfy those stipulations, the entire Board of Trustees will vote on the increase.

According to Beard it will go on the “consent agenda” which means it will be approved pretty much automatically with a vote of confidence from the Fiscal Workgroup.

“That’s why a lot of people are moving (off-campus),” said freshman Danielle Rojas, a resident of Castor Hall.

In fact, of a dozen students asked about the new rate increase, they all said they planned to move off campus after this year.

Many students felt they were overpaying already.

“I don’t appreciate the housing conditions compared to what I pay,” said freshman Matthew Guzman, a resident of Zeta Hall. He added that Residence Services could probably operate more efficiently than it does now. “Instead of constantly repairing things, why don’t they replace things?” he said.

Students also know of the deals waiting for them just off campus.

“You could pay the same and live off campus with a bigger room and your own bathroom,” said freshman Ryan Johnson, a resident of Beta Hall.

Kane believes that Residence Services won’t have too much trouble filling up all of its housing, though.

“We turned away about a hundred students this past August that couldn’t live with us because we were full,” Kane said.

Every student who was asked about the rate increase was surprised to hear about the new cable package that is included in the increase.

“They (the Residence Hall Association) … made the proposal that they wanted more channels and told me that they were willing to pay additional funds to have those channels,” Kane said.

The RHA was unable to be reached for comment.

Disney, FX, The History Channeland the Food Network, as well as seven premium HBO channels, will be added to the on-campus cable package.