USF students have been consistently vocal for weeks on social media regarding Parking and Transportation Services’ (PATS) decision to rescind its offer of prorated refunds on parking permits.
Among these outspoken students are Student Government (SG) senators.
On Tuesday evening, the Senate voted to unanimously pass Sen. Ethan Tassinari’s resolution — which was authored by senators Austin Halley and Zach Blair-Andrews — asking for partial reimbursement of parking permit fees.
The intent of the resolution was to “call on Parking and Transportation Services to give students the ability to have parking permits refunded.”
Some reasons behind the resolution included students’ financial instability due to increasing layoffs and furloughs caused by COVID-19 and the temporary halt of some of PATS’ operations.
“Most students do not have enough saved to meet living expenses for more than a month,” said Tassinari. He cited that “people 18-24 years old have less than $1,000 in their savings” and “$1,040 a month is considered poverty.”
An annual parking permit for students ranges from $183 to $226, according to the PATS website. Students also pay $3 per credit hour in Transportation Fees that go toward parking services.
Students could have been reimbursed anywhere from $75 to $92 if the refund began the Monday after spring break — when the first day of remote coursework began. This takes into account that there would have been 17 weeks left in the calendar year until an annual permit expired.
Resolutions are passed by the Senate if it wants to show solidarity on a particular topic. These drafted documents are sent to groups associated with the subject or people to whom the Senate would like to spread the word.
In this case, one of the departments the resolution was sent to was PATS.
This is largely in response to PATS’ action and inaction on parking permit refunds.
PATS initially announced on its website that if students wanted a refund, it would be giving prorated reimbursement to those who returned their parking permits by March 29. But on March 18, PATS said the refund program was being “temporarily suspended.”
USF’s Facebook student groups became very vocal, with seemingly every scroll on the class pages being about PATS’ change of plans.
The conversations were mostly formed out of confusion about the permit return process. Specifically, students were instructed to physically return their parking pass to the PATS office on campus or to send it via mail.
Blair-Andrews was one of the students who was offered a refund for their parking permit.
“I was one of the first people to send in my parking permit right when they made that announcement,” said Blair-Andrews during the Senate’s discussion of Tassinari’s resolution.
Blair-Andrews said he contacted PATS shortly after to check on the status of his refund, with a response that PATS was sorting through all of the returned permits and he should see a refund in the future.
“They just never contacted me after that to tell me that [a refund] was no longer going to be given to me,” said Blair-Andrews. “I had to call them and ask them myself.”
Blair-Andrews said PATS confirmed that he would in fact not be receiving a refund after his inquiry.
“I don’t think anyone got refunds from this,” said Blair-Andrews.
At a time in which some students are facing financial instability, refunds can be helpful to a student’s well-being, something that Tassinari attested to in his presentation.
“Students don’t have money right now and they don’t have a safety net beyond borrowing money, which is not something we never want to see happen just to make ends meet,” said Tassinari. “Students need the money from permit reimbursements to continue to make ends meet and pay necessary expenses.”
PATS explained that it must retain any funds that were paid to it “to ensure [PATS] can continue to meet existing requirements while maintaining our parking facilities and covering operational costs.” This was information that Tassinari contested in his presentation.
PATS said this is because the department is an “auxiliary unit,” meaning it is self-supporting and does not receive state funding.
“Most of PATS’ services are not necessary right now, with minimal student presence on campus,” said Tassinari. “So, the Bull Runner, enforcement and road maintenance.”
From April 1-7, about 1,448 students, faculty and staff rode the Bull Runner, according to Assistant Director of Communications for Administrative Services Aaron Nichols in a previous Oracle article.
Despite Tassinari’s presentation, some senators brought up the possibility of refunds impacting the payroll of PATS employees.
“My only worry is I know the employees at [PATS] are still working and still have to monitor parking lots,” said Sen. Nadaa Hussein.
She elaborated on how, refund or not, the pay of its employees would be up to PATS.
“They obviously thought they could [offer refunds] so what has changed now?” said Hussein. “Even if they don’t have the money, I’m sure they can maybe allocate money from somewhere else or USF administration can come together.”
Tassinari contacted PATS last week about his creation of the reimbursement resolution and said he received no response.
After about seven minutes of discussion between the senators concerning PATS’ operations and its abilities to reimburse students, the Senate passed the resolution with unanimous consent.
“Parking has an ability to cut expenses to afford some partial refund rather than reject the idea altogether,” said Tassinari. “[USF President Steven] Currall and the university have made it very clear that they want to support students and want to help us.
“I think [PATS] should join the university in doing what they can to accomplish that.”