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Parking dollars are used for upkeep of garages and lots

The revenue that is generated is used for operations to pay for utilities, staff, construction costs, repairing, repaving roads, fixing potholes and the Bull Runner.. ORACLE PHOTO/CHAVELI GUZMAN

The hefty parking permit fee that is paid every year or the citations that can be found on car windshields can be frustrating for some students. However, these payments are recycled back into USF to maintain lots and strengthen commuter’s experiences when traveling to campus.

For the 2017-18 school year, 31,262 parking permits were sold creating a total net revenue of $8,085,130. There were 63,430 citations issued and 28,352 warnings, which totaled to $541,845.

According to Raymond Mensah, the Parking and Transportation Services director, the department is considered an auxiliary, meaning no state funding can be used to alleviate costs. Since parking and transportation is self-supporting, income is generated through permit sales, citations, events on campus that charge for parking and the transportation access fee (a $3 per credit hour fee charged to students through tuition).

Mensah said all the revenue that is generated is used for operations to pay for utilities, staff, construction costs, repaving roads, fixing potholes and for funding the Bull Runner. The Bull Runner’s total expenditure for the fiscal 2016-17 fiscal year was $3,971,306 with a deficit of $248,632. Citation and parking permit fees are deposited toward a debt service which pays for the parking garages. The mortgage is approximately $4 million a year.

“There are four garages and once they are built they are financed, so each one is like financing a home,” Mensah said.

Reserves left over at the end of the year are retained for future projects in case another garage needs to be built. The cash balance left over at the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year was $1,854, 265. The leftover funds are used to subsidize permit fees, which is why rates have not been raised in five years, according to Mensah.

The Laurel garage is currently undergoing preventative maintenance and the Crescent Hill garage is subject to receive improvements in the fall. A project in conjunction with the Student Green Energy Fund will implement LED lights in the Collins and Laurel garage to reduce the cost of utilities.

In relation to new parking garages and lots, there have been conversations on the matter, but no finalized decisions have been made, according to Mensah. A study is said to take place on campus for students to discuss their concerns and viewpoints in terms of parking management.

“We plan on taking a deep dive into our operations to see how we can make some changes and make things better,” Mensah said.

An engineering firm evaluates the conditions of the parking garages to formulate a plan on where improvements need to be made. A garage is chosen based on the time of the year and the engineering firm then return to do a thorough survey, which mostly consists of preventative maintenance. To consolidate the life of the garages, routine cleanings are done such as pressure and window washing.

In the fall, the judicial branch of Student Government issued an option to avoid a first parking citation ticket by taking a one-hour class. Mensah said details are still being worked out for how Parking and Transportation Services will approach the new policy.

“We’re using it as an opportunity to educate students of the do’s and don’ts,” Mensah said. “Most people just don’t know which parking garages to park in, where to park or what to do so we hope the class will teach people so there won’t be another occurrence for them.”

Mensah said there will most likely be no significant impact on the revenue accumulated from citations since 50 percent of citations are warnings, downgraded or appealed.

Parking and Transportation Services conducted a study to compare rates from FSU, UF, and UCF, which revealed that USF has the cheapest prices, according to Mensah’s analysis. Mensah said some schools have fees that are built into the tuition based on the amount of credit hours a student takes. For USF transportation, the university charges $3 per credit hour. UF is about $9.10 per credit hour according to the analysis conducted, which would make USF fees lower.

According to Mensah, FSU does not charge a fee separate from the transportation and access fee, therefore there is one combined fee. Mensah said when those numbers are added, USF has lower rates than FSU.

“You can’t just compare the permit rates between schools because it is not a true comparison,” Mensah said.

Mensah said garages can cost $20 million to $30 million dollars when financed. Increased fees in the community such as parking permits would have to be generated since there is no additional funding.

“We worked hard to keep the permit rates low,” Mensah said. “I don’t wake up every morning trying to make your life miserable, I’m just trying to make sure you have a place to park, which doesn’t make everyone happy.”