Amanda Buchanan, chair of the Student Fee Advisory Committee, started asking questions when she was told that a 2 percent tax would be included in the ballot language for new campus based fees. The tax would pay for operations of the University Office of the President (UCOP).
“I knew better,” said Buchanan, a third-year who is also a member the Student Union Assembly (SUA), UCSC’s student government.
Campus-based fees are initiated and approved by students to fund services and organizations like student government, student media and child care. Since the budget crisis has resulted in deep cuts, students have become more dependent on these self-assessed taxes to fund necessary services. Last spring students passed Measure 42, a $6.50 per student per quarter fee to support increased library hours.
In search of answers, Buchanan spoke with Free Moini, the assistant director of UC Santa Cruz Planning and Budget.
She was told that UCSC administrators want to implement the 2 percent tax as a means of offsetting the cost of a proposal by UCOP which would restructure funding streams system-wide.
Currently, revenue brought in from tuition, state funding and other sources is centralized by UCOP. A portion of these funds is distributed to each campus based on formulas determining the campus’s needs. Under this model, some campuses have more than 100 percent return on their fees, while other campuses receive less.
The funding stream proposal would allow each campus to keep the revenue it generates. However, UCOP would then assess a yet to be determined percentage of each campus’s overall budget.
With the new proposal, the percentage UCOP collects would be used “for central operations, including UCOP administration, UCOP-managed academic programs, systemwide initiatives and ongoing commitments, multi-campus research programs and institutes, and the non‐campus operations of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.”
After the SUA and executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway met, campus administration chose not to implement the 2 percent tax on campus-based fees to address this year’s UCOP assessment.
“The proposal itself for the overall system that is being suggested is good,” Buchanan said. “It’s more transparent. But there are holes that need to be fixed. There is no cap on the tax, there’s no discussion on when the tax can increase or when it can decrease.”
The amount that UCOP assesses is not a fixed number and may change based on overall expenditures of each campus, according to the proposal.
Moini, who helps implement budget decisions, said that although there is nothing that keeps the assessment from going up, administration on each campus will pressure UCOP to keep the amount as low as possible.
“We all understand there is a common good with UCOP and they provide services that are valuable,” Moini said. “But we’re not on autopilot where the assessment just keeps getting bigger and bigger. There is an actual review and some level of evaluation.”
The assessment rate will be reviewed every few years, according to the proposal. However, it is not clear who will be a part of that review.
Moini said that taxing campus-based fees to pay the UCOP assessment needs to be considered further and will come up for discussion again next year.
“If our assessment goes up, we are going to have to find the money someplace,” Moini said. “Should the money come from the source that caused the assessment to go up? Or should it come from another source?”