Where’d the dough go?

It was the ghosts of student government past, as former officeholders showed up to caution current leaders against an overzealous approach to fee increases.

“I made a lot of promises that [the last increase in 1999] would last the Associated Students for 10 years,” said Richard Elsom, who served as president from fall 1998 through spring 2001.

Before asking students to raise their activity and union fees by $55 a year, he said, A.S. leaders need to discuss potential cuts so they can tell students they’ve “turned over every rock.”

That’s already happening, said A.S. President Michael Dailey during the exchange at the Feb. 2 meeting of the Governmental Affairs Committee. Not only did leaders and A.S. staffers work through intersession to analyze the budget long-term, they’ve also already identified cuts ranging from freezing a career position to docking officer stipends by 17 percent. They might stop subsidizing the free bus passes students receive, and last year the nighttime trolley commonly used to transport drunken students was sidelined.

“This is not something we’re just throwing in the wind: ‘Let’s do a fee increase,'” Dailey said.

Chela Patterson, the staff member who advises the student leaders and directs the activity fee, said, “Everything took a quick turn in one short year. Last year you couldn’t have even told me we’d be in this position this year.”

The A.S. calculates that, due to state budget cuts that will stifle enrollment, it will deplete activity fee reserves and be out of working capital by 2006-07. The last increase was expected to last through 2007-08; this one, if successful, should hold though 2011-12. They money funds programs such as the Community Legal Information Center (CLIC), Community Volunteers in Education (CAVE), the Women’s Center and the Children’s Center.

The activity fee hike would count for only $15 of the increase; the other $40 would boost the student union fee, whose funds were nearly depleted after cost overruns to the construction of the new Bell Memorial Union.

Bob Ray, a long-involved student who ran for A.S. president last year, also cautioned the officers not to let this election be run like one that raised instructionally related activity (IRA) fees, with little publicity and only two polling places in a special election.

Dailey said that any fee increase would be placed on the general ballot April 14-15, and the IRA ballot was out of their control—the A.S. was just contracted by the other group to run the polls.

GAC had planned to vote on whether to put the activity fee increase on the ballot this week but postponed it until Feb. 9 to further iron out the numbers.

Elsom said he’s open to the idea of fee increases, if they’re truly needed. "If you can convince me, you can convince anybody," he said.