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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Director: UA unions alone in fee needs

    Though student unions at all three state universities are scrambling to find more funding, the UA has the only union that must cover its own expenses, something that makes a $40 mandatory fee necessary, said the union’s director.

    In the wake of statewide increases in employee and operational expenses, the Arizona Student Unions is proposing a fee that would be used to rebuild the union’s shrinking reserve fund, repair and renovate buildings and add more programs for students.

    If approved by students in a special election April 11 and 12, students would pay $20 a year in 2007 and an additional $10 each following year until 2009, when it would reach the maximum $40, said Dan Adams, director of the Arizona Student Unions.

    While unions at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University enjoy the safe financial harbor of their parent universities, the UA’s union only receives 3 percent of its funds from the university to cover such expenses, Adams said.

    What about the 20 percent of students who don’t go to the unions? If we are asked to approve this fee, we will first look at the process those students will have to go through, and whether it’s reasonable.

    -Gary Stuart,
    Arizona Board of Regents

    “”Only limited student tuition dollars find their way to the unions,”” Adams wrote in an e-mail. “”The rest of the income is generated through our many operations.””

    Though all the unions will have to pay state-mandated raises in employee benefits and salaries, the weight of the burden is disproportional, said Jim Beatle, senior business operations manager for the ASU Student Development and Memorial Union.

    “”It is like a budget cut, and we will feel it,”” Beatle said. “”But our university funding will help pay those extra expenses.””

    The ASU union receives almost half of its budget, or 47 percent, from the university and another 9 percent from state funding, said Beatle, adding he felt the amount the UA provides its unions is unusually low.

    The unions at NAU also receive a significant amount of funding from the university, said NAU union accountant Susan Neeb.

    The unions and services program at NAU gets 80 percent of its funding from the school-run Dining Services, Neeb said.

    Both NAU and ASU require the students who live on campus to pay for a mandatory meal plan, though the union directors said not much, if any, of those dollars can be used toward covering expenses.

    “”Our meal plan dollars are used for facility renewals and upgrades in food services,”” Beatle said. “”Whatever is left over doesn’t create a significant reservoir of funds.””

    ASU President Michael Crow said the meal plan was not implemented to cover increases in union expenses, which he said he felt were not hindering the unions’ day-to-day operations.

    But the union at ASU has suffered from such increases, Beatle said, which has forced it to take money out of a reserve fund to cover basic operations. The increases have also resulted in delaying a handful of maintenance projects totaling $15 million, he said.

    “”The maintenance we need to do is critical, but we don’t have the funds for that kind of infrastructure,”” Beatle said.

    Like the UA, the unions at ASU tried to implement a union fee two years ago, Beatle said, but the students shot down the proposal in a referendum and the unions have continued to raise prices for products and services.

    If the majority of UA students also vote down a fee, Adams said he will take the similar route of cutting programs and raising prices.

    “”I can pop an extra $1 onto every hamburger, which at the end could bring in just as much if not more money than a fee would,”” Adams said. “”I don’t want to have to do that.””

    Without a fee, next year’s budget includes an across-the-board 5 percent increase on all sales and service items. The building hours of late-night facilities, like Cellar and the Games Room, will also be reduced.

    The Center for Student Involvement and Leadership and a matching fund project that supports program collaboration among student groups is also budgeted for elimination, Adams said, and student organizations will have to start paying a user registration fee.

    Requiring all undergraduate, graduate and professional students to pay a union fee seems troubling, said Regent Gary Stuart of the Arizona Board of Regents.

    “”What about the 20 percent of students who don’t go to the unions?”” asked Stuart. “”If we are asked to approve this fee, we will first look at the process those students will have to go through, and whether it’s reasonable.””

    Though there would be an opt-out process for students who can prove they wouldn’t benefit from the services or programs in either union or extending areas, Adams said he thinks those exceptions will be made sparingly because the fee would fund multiple services all over campus.

    But if students support the fee and the opt-out process seems unfair or too difficult, Stuart said the regents could ask the UA to make revisions before the fee would be approved.

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