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Parking, housing increases approved

Parking and housing rate increases may put a sizeable dent in the wallets of students this fall, pending a final approval from the Board of Trustees in March.

PARKING INCREASE

Members of the BOT Finance and Audit Workgroup met Monday and approved a 20 percent increase for all parking permits. The original proposal from Parking and Transportation Services called for a 20 percent increase each year for the next five years, but the workgroup only reached a decision for the fall ’06/spring ’07 academic year.

According to Parking and Transportation Services, students account for 73 percent of all parking permit sales.

Non-resident annual student permits will be going up $21, from $105 to $126, and resident annual permits will go up $26, from $130 to $156.

The workgroup will still have to meet next year to approve an additional 20 percent increase, which would put the price of a non-resident student permit close to $150.

“The Tampa increase is driven by demand,” USF Chief Financial Officer Carl Carlucci said. “The Campus Master Plan proposes the construction of new buildings on existing parking lots. It’s a substantial increase, and everyone realizes how substantial it is.”

According to Carlucci, future construction of a new fine arts building and parking garage for the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center will put 1,500 parking spaces out of commission.Parking Garage III should provide 1,500 new spaces, and Garage IV should provide 2,000 spaces.

“We’re having to build parking structures instead of (parking lots) on the ground, and the current revenues do not support parking structures unless we raise the rates up,” BOT Chairman Dick Beard said.

The parking increases will help pay $1.4 million in debt each year to finance the new $18 million Garage IV to be located near Magnolia Apartments.

Some observers were opposed to the increase and submitted a petition with about 1,500 signatures to the BOT prior to the meeting.

“There are people that earn $18,000 a year, and there are people that earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year,” said Susie Shannon, admissions registrar for the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “Those people have to pay the same amount for parking, and that’s what we object to.”

The petition noted that there are many USF employees who live below the poverty line and that many employees maintain eligibility for food stamps.

Beard read the petition aloud at the meeting and stopped mid-sentence after reading some USF employees were on food stamps to say, “I didn’t know we had people on food stamps.”

“The reason I read that is because I didn’t understand we had people living on food stamps,” Beard said after the meeting. “I’m assuming that we at the University are paying a living wage to most employees at the University. If someone’s a student and working for minimum wage, then that’s a different issue. I hear more about how bad parking is at USF than a $20 increase.”

But those disagreeing with the parking increase said BOT members need to consider the salaries of office workers, physical plant workers, groundskeepers and maintenance workers.BOT Vice Chair Rhea Law hypothesized Parking and Transportation Services should partner with the

Center for Urban Transportation Research as a long-term solution.

“We need to look at innovative ways to solve this,” she said.

HOUSING RATE INCREASE

The workgroup also approved the on-campus housing rate increases proposed by Director of Residence Service Tom Kane.

The 4 percent to 6.3 percent increase discussed by the workgroup was higher than the original 1.11 percent to 5.29 percent proposals that were reported to the Oracle by Kane in January.

The original rate increase proposal would have had a student paying an average of $200 more next year to live on campus. The newest proposal from Kane, which was approved by the workgroup Monday, replaces that $200 number with about $275.

Single apartment rates (for a nine-month contract) at Magnolia Apartments are seeing the biggest increase, from $5,760 to $6,120, next academic year.

Andros, Castor and Beta double apartment rates are seeing the lowest dollar increase, from $3,108 to $3,304.

The reasons listed for the increase were cost-of-living increases, increases in utility costs and ensuring that Residence Life keeps a strong financial position in the bond market with new Residence Hall projects on the horizon.

The biggest issue leading to the housing increase was utility costs, especially with high energy prices, an effect of Hurricane Katrina people nationwide are still feeling.

“Natural gas, just to give an example, went up 150 percent in December,” Kane said. “We’re anticipating between a 35 and 40 percent rate increase just in utilities between what we’ve budgeted for this year and what we think we’re going to need for next year.”

Residence Services estimates overall residence hall utility costs to be $475,000 more next year.

Beard said making utility payments separate from rent payments should be looked into in order to deal with utility costs. Beard also said energy conservation campaigns could be implemented to compensate for the increase.

ELI LOST FUNDS UPDATE

The workgroup also got an update on the ongoing investigation into the English Language Institute incident that made national headlines.

Of the $275,000 in University assets hidden inside the office of former employee Patricia Baker, the office of University Audit and Compliance has recovered and deposited $150,000.

The UAC has determined $100,000 to be uncollectible, and the office is still looking to recover the remaining funds.

USF administrators are still working to decentralize 191 cash collection units on campus.By the end of the process, 57 cash collection sites will be closed and 94 will be consolidated or limited to “credit card only” transactions. The remaining 40 sites – mostly in retail – will be required to go through a certification process.

Sites with retail operations, such as the Contemporary Art Museum, and other ticket offices are among the cash collecting sites allowed to remain open, USF Controller Nick Trivunovich said.

The committee in charge of the restructuring of cash collections has planned to train and certify all persons involved in cash handling operations. To further monitor collections, the committee wants to come up with an average annual figure for each collection unit.

With these figures, the committee will be able to assess the amount of projected revenue for a given collection unit.

“These controls should go a long way, so we’ll never be looking at this again,” USF Treasurer Eric Walden said.