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Volume 7, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

Student fee cap may make FY 2006 budgets tight

By Portia-Elaine Gant
Breaking News

The Student Fees Advisory Committee may be dealing with a shortage of funds to allocate to student service units if the Student Government Association does not raise the Student Service Fee cap. 

Last year, SFAC raised the fee to $150, the highest amount currently allowed, but was still $300,000 over budget.

A majority vote of the SGA Senate, the student body or the state Legislature can raise the Student Service Fee ceiling of $150.

"There are two different processes and two different authorities at play," Dean of Students William Munson said. "The authority of SFAC is to recommend the level and the allocation of the Student Service Fee. The authority of the student government is to consider authorizing an increase in the cap over $150. Whether or not those two things happen with any coordinated conferences between SFAC and SGA is yet to be seen."

Munson and Vice President of Student Affairs Elwyn C. Lee told the SGA Senate about the lack of fee revenue at the last SGA meeting of the semester, and the Senate has not yet discussed their plan of action. Speaker of the Senate Bobby L. Warren said he has reservations about raising the fee cap.

"I would imagine based on previous discussion on other fees and the Athletics issue that (the Senate) will be fairly reluctant to increase fees," Warren said. "My concern is that the way the statute is written, once we go over the $150 cap, it gives the administration unilateral power to increase the fee up to $250. My concern is we're not giving them license to increase a little bit; we're handing over the power to manage how fees increase in the future."

The bill that governs student fee increases also states that if the cap is raised, the University administration cannot increase the fee more than 10 percent per year. Still, Warren recognizes the power of the administration to increase the fee 10 percent every year.

"If we could talk to a legislator about having that statute change, rewriting it so there are more checks than the $150 mark, then we won't have to worry about having an agreement that would change from one administration to the next. It would be the law," Warren said.

Warren said the Senate will most likely allow the student body to vote on the issue. However, President Jon Quintanilla is discouraging a vote of the student body and said he hopes the Senate will come to a decision because "it would be harder for the student body because the average student is not going to be aware of where the money is spent and how it is spent."

Whether the Senate or the students vote on the increase, the decision is time sensitive. Though SFAC will not begin allocations for the 2005-2006 fiscal year until February, the Senate is only scheduled to meet once before the hearings begin. Without an increase, the committee will have to approach the hearings differently.

"If the cap is not increased, then the committee will be in a position where they will be considering reducing allocations rather than maintaining or increasing allocations," Munson said. "I'd think that would not bode well for any new groups requesting funding. It's speculation, but traditionally, those who have received funds would be the ones who would receive first consideration."
 

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