AS Board discusses transportation fee increases for students

A breakdown of potential fee increases, from the meeting agenda.

By Haley McLendon

Quarterly student transportation fees are likely to increase for the 2020 fiscal year by at least 5 percent. The fee was discussed at the Friday, Feb. 8 Associated Students Board of Directors meeting.

The budget for the Alternative Transportation Fee is currently at a deficit, according to Kay McMurren, the program support supervisor for student transportation. The board can approve a 5 percent increase of the fee without needing to seek the approval of the student body, according to Western’s transportation website. However, an increase of less than 5 percent would not be enough to make up the budget deficit, McMurren said.

The board did not vote to decide on the possible fee increase during the meeting on Friday, but it will vote on the issue before AS elections in the spring, AS VP for Governmental Affairs Natasha Hessami said.

Western’s contract with Whatcom Transportation Authority will expire in the spring of 2020, and it is unlikely negotiations to renew the contract would be completed before an election on the fee increase would be held, McMurren said. This means that the amount the fee would increase by, would be decided before the costs associated with a new WTA contract would be determined, she said.

McMurren expressed her support of increasing the fee by more than 5 percent. She said that while increasing the fee by a lesser amount would not cause the program to become bankrupt, further increases would have to be made in the near future to avoid problems.

An increase between 10 to 14 percent would close the deficit and would cost students around $3 more per quarter, she said. The fee currently costs students who are taking six or more credits $26.25 per quarter.

“What tends to happen with fees, is if you stay ahead of the game with them, they stay static for awhile,” McMurren said.

AS VP for Student Life Anne Lee, who is also the chair of the Alternative Transportation Fee Committee, voiced her concerns about passing smaller fee increases year after year to try to close the program’s deficit without requiring a student body vote.

“If we give it to the board to pass a 5 percent increase, and then let’s say a year from now [the Alternative Transportation Fee] is back at more of a deficit, and we pass another 5 percent, that’s going to be two years of us passing a 10 percent increase in the fee without engaging the students in it,” Lee said.

The board also discussed a draft of the job description for a new position of AS VP for Sustainability. The creation of this position was voted for in the 2017 AS Election and is listed in the AS Constitution, but the position does not yet exist.

Once established, the AS VP for Sustainability would act as a liaison between the student body and the administration regarding sustainability issues on campus.

Katie Winkelman, the AS Environmental and Sustainability Programs Director, has found herself taking on these responsibilities herself even though they are not a part of her job description, she said.

Western has several departments that deal with sustainability on campus, including the Office of Sustainability and Huxley College. The AS VP for Sustainability would help all of the stakeholders communicate with each other and work together, Winkelman said.

“A VP for Sustainability would be really helpful for getting all of the stakeholders to talk to each other and to better serve students,” Winkelman said, adding that many of the stakeholders are trying to accomplish the same goals, but not working together to do so.

The AS Board of Directors meets Fridays at 4 p.m. in Viking Union 567.

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