Students: time to redo your budget
Be it from food money or beer money, students will be digging for more dollars to pay their $786 in fees next semester after an unprecedented mid-year increase.

The California State University Board of Trustees voted 13-3 on Dec. 16 to boost fees 10 percent for undergraduates and 15 percent for graduate students. That amounts to $72 more a semester for undergraduates ($114 for graduate students) at each of the 23 campuses. Of the $30 million generated, $10 million will go toward financial aid as required by law.

Several students from Chico State University traveled by bus to the Long Beach meeting to protest to the trustees. Three locals spoke, including Fay Roepcke, the A.S. director of legislative affairs who also serves on the California State Students Association. They spoke on behalf of all categories of students, from cash-strapped single parents, to those who don’t qualify for financial aid and have to work many hours to afford the cost of an education.

“It was worth it,” Roepcke said later. “[The trustees] know we are going to call them on it every single time.”

In the end, only the student trustee, the faculty trustee and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante—who pointed out that the budget hasn’t even passed the Legislature yet—voted against the increase.

In a press release calling CSU fees “an incredible bargain,” CSU Chancellor Charles Reed defended the hike as necessary to “maintain quality and access” as the Gov. Gray Davis handed down a $59.6 million mid-year budget cut in addition to earlier cutbacks.

Sorry Jetsons: Chico gets car of the future
Hoping it can set an example by polluting as little as possible, the city of Chico has purchased a hybrid vehicle.

The new Toyota Prius has two motors, one gas and one electric, and uses a sophisticated computer program to determine which to use at any given time to maximize fuel efficiency while maintaining battery charge. Toyota says it gets an average of 52 miles per gallon in town, 48 on the highway. It produces one-tenth the amount of smog-creating nitrous oxide and one-half the global-warming carbon dioxide of the average conventional vehicle.

It will be used by the building division for tasks ranging from weed abatement to construction inspections. Also, the city is about to get two Global Electric Motorcars (GEMs) donated by the California Park and Recreation Society and the National Park Service for use by the Parks Department.

City Manager Tom Lando said the city has been following through on the City Council’s commitment to buy alternative-fuel vehicles when the cost over time is not significantly more. “We intend to continue that trend,” he said.

It cost about $2,000 more to buy the hybrid car, but Equipment Services Supervisor Arturo Coupe (aptly named, in this instance) stated in a press release, “When you factor in the lower operating cost, over the life of the vehicle the total cost will be about the same as conventional vehicles.”

Lando said the city should be leading the community when it comes to lowering emissions, and going with hybrid vehicles now and in the future is "the right thing to do."