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Parking fee rise to fill budget hole

          Ohio University officials say new parking fees will be used to fill an almost half a million dollar hole in the Transportation and Parking Services departmental budget.

          But a wording mix-up during a presentation about the new fee earlier this week caused some confusion about what was to blame for the shortfall.

          Although the $432,000 hole was described as a departmental "deficit" during a presentation given to Graduate Student Senate Monday night, the monetary shortfall was caused when OU eliminated the department's General Fund allocation - and is not the result of overspending or revenue losses.

          The university will eliminate $27 million from its General Fund budget next year, which will be the third consecutive year OU has undergone extensive budget cuts.

          As part of those cuts, OU will remove more than $400,000 used for parking lot snow removal and maintenance from the General Fund allocation and into the Transportation and Parking Services budget, said Marty Paulins, the department's director.

          "It's just a matter of General Fund support being shifted over to the parking budget," Paulins said. "The pay-to-park is going to cover that."

          The fee proposal being presented to OU's constituent senates would create a $150 flat rate parking fee for faculty staff and would create a $35 summer parking fee for students, which would be added onto the annual parking pass. The current student parking fee is $164 for parking lots and $330 for parking garages annually.

          A similar fee proposal was considered by the Budget Planning Council last year but was not implemented.

          The new fee, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees tomorrow, met some opposition from Graduate Student Senate Monday.

          "The tone of the presentation made it seem like this was a decision that had already been made," said Tracy Kelly, GSS president, who added that alternatives to a new fee could include charging for visitor parking or implementing an income-based tier fee system.

          "We really didn't understand why it was being presented to us if we weren't going to have meaningful input into the discussion," Kelly said.

          University officials say shifting the cost of lot maintenance from the General Fund money to the department's budget will make Transportation and Parking Services self-sufficient. 

          "We've always allocated money to them and not expected them to be a true auxiliary," said John Day, OU's associate provost for academic budget and planning. "This move means their entire budget will be covered by fee-based revenue."

          Transportation and Parking Services has a departmental budget of about $1.3 million, the third smallest of OU's nine auxiliary units.

          "They are not overspending their budget," Day said.


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