Campus Press: What happened last Thursday (3/1) in regards to the UMC’s budget and how does it relate to the final finance board meetings from a couple of weeks ago?
Carlos Garcia: Well, at the Leg Council meeting, we presented our information, and frankly, I don’t believe too many people were listening. From what I gathered, it sounded to like they were looking for answers that supported their preconceived notions. So, no matter what I said, it didn’t seem to matter, and I didn’t seem to convince anyone. Perhaps it was my presentation, I don’t know, but it seems like folks have their minds made up on what they want to see. And it appears that they have certain approaches or beliefs about programs that they agree with or disagree with; it doesn’t seem to matter that there are other students that agree with us. There may be programs that people on the Council don’t agree with or support, but I think that folks would do well to remember that they are representing 28,000 students, not just themselves. They may not personally feel that a kind of program that may appeal to.I was a little concerned that there just wasn’t any listening taking place. I mean, they were pleasant enough, they were polite, but it just didn’t seem to matter what I said, which was a little odd.
CP: What do you think the Legislative Council wants to see out of the UMC?
Garcia: They’re looking for a zero percent increase in student fees. But they have to appreciate that the cost of living, the cost of doing business, increases all around us. So, I think that may be an unrealistic expectation, and so in order to achieve that I think they have begun to attack programs that they don’t personally agree with. If you’re at zero and everything is increasing, you have to cut something to make that happen, and I think that is a very unrealistic approach because I think that the students of campus value what we do. No student has ever come here and said, ‘hey, do less for us.’ Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that members of legislative council are aware of that.”
CP: Was the concession made at the final Finance Board meeting a result of the UMC requiring less capital? Where did that come from?
Garcia: There are basically two fees we use at the UMC, the operations fee that we use on an annual basis and the bond fee, and that goes strictly to pay off the 2002 expansion and renovation. Over the summer, the university treasurer’s office renegotiated many of the bonds the university pays including ours; the result was a $45,000 savings to the UMC. We didn’t use it for the bond, so we offered it back to finance board, and my suggestion was to use that savings to fund the needs for Program Council and NightRide, which totals almost exactly $45,000.
CP: Do you believe that UCSU will use that money in the fashion you designed for?
Garcia: I sure hope so because what I offered to finance board gives them a zero plus zero; it does hurt us because we lose for at least next year our capital funds. Capital improvements and equipment improvements to the UMC- we lose that for a year, but when you have to balance, ‘Do I want to have programs cut that I believe students feel are valuable?’ or ‘Do I want positions cut that I need to run the programs?,’ I had to choose which one do I pick. I had to choose the capital. Now, we have the ability to fund some of those improvements from the reserve that we have. But that’s not a very long-term solution. It’ll bide us time for a year. So next year, the UMC could be at zero plus zero and still be able to fund some of its capital. So I thought it was a win-win situation for them.
CP: Do you believe that $45,000 would be enough to cover the unduckables or other parts of the budget that were not approved by the finance board?
Garcia: Yeah, I do. My proposal was that if they are not going to fund our unduckables and achieve a zero plus zero for the UMC, then I would take the capital, and the dollar amount is almost the same, so I would move that. Now, obviously if they moved that to the UMC operations fund, that reduces $45,000 dollars I will have to use as capital or to fund the unduckables, so again that’s one way of looking at it. The other piece is for Program Council and NightRide, what with NightRide, the cost of renting vehicles, the cost of gas, etc. has increased, so if you fund zero plus zero on night ride, it’s actually a cut because they will have the same amount of money, but it costs more money to run the program. They will have to reduce the hours of operation and the hours of operation for NightRide are governed by a bill that Leg Council passed about five years ago, four years ago, somewhere around there. And so they would have to address that bill if that’s what they are going to do with zero plus zero and that’s about $7200. For Program Council, also the cost of new business is increased, last year at Finance Board, Program Council asked for an increase to fund concerts and activities, things like that. Finance Board said, ‘no, use your balance.’ Well, this is next year, Program Council went back and Finance Board said no, we won’t consider funding you the rest. So what’s going on there? The problem is that one group of student leaders has no obligation to follow the previous one, which is part of our system here. So, promises made by Finance Board one year means nothing the next year. Because Program Council did not get the funds last year, they are actually under funded. So, by moving some of the $45,000 to fund Program Council, at least placing them at status quo, everybody gets a status quo budget except the UMC capital under my proposal. Again, not what I prefer; I prefer they fund zero percent plus unduckables and leave the capital, but if they are going to cut something then it should be the capital.
CP: How will those capital cuts effect operations here at the UMC?
Garcia: Well, it goes for replacing equipment and repairs to the building; one of the things that we are wanting to replace is the dishwasher in the food services. That’s about a $96,000 expenditure. That dishwasher is over 20 years old and it’s pretty much exceeding it’s life, and you know we’re kind of gluing it together and getting it running. Our ability to wash dishes properly is hampered. Another piece of it is the chairs in the ballroom were from the 1964 addition to the UMC, so they’re getting pretty old and ratty, and they need to be replaced. There are other smaller pieces, we have a shop in the UMC; it’s a repair shop, for maintenance of equipment, furniture, etc, and the ventilation in there is not appropriate for the kind of work we’re doing, so we need to fix that. There is also a big ol’ hole in the ground where a vent used to go and that violates fire code so we need to seal that up. There’s some improvements to our shop that need to be addressed. Again, we can do those probably next year with our reserve. So some of these code issues we will take care of regardless. But that reserve is more of a rainy day fund; we hate to be using it when capital spending on an annual basis is supposed to be part of the plan, part of the process, that’s what we’ve been counting on, and for some reason, people want to change things this year. Not that I’m against change, but you also have to make sure that you understand the ramifications of that change, so we are trying to educate the student leaders in those ramifications when you make these student decisions. And yes, it is really good to say, I didn’t increase student fees, most students would applaud that, but I think the students also have to understand the ramifications of that and if they understood, they might say, ‘ Oh, well I’m willing to pay that dollar twelve, or whatever the dollar amount is.” For the UMC it is $3.89 for students, for the unduckables to be funded. That’s the cost of a beer.
CP: You mentioned the rainy day fund, how much is in that, how exactly do you fund it?
Garcia: There is a little over 400,000 dollars in that fund. That is funded through our bond, when we collect bond money from students; there is a percentage of that that goes to the fund. It’s part of a practice of making sure you have enough funds in an account for a building of this size, this is about a 40-million-dollar building. The amount we have in there is nowhere near what we need, but it is a way of making sure we have some for major.for surprises. The air system goes down for instance, these things; you spend 200,000 at the drop of a hat. A couple of years ago, we replaced part of our roof. That was about $700,000. So, we kept some money in there for that replacement, we got some money from UCSU and between the two, we were able to replace the roof and those things happen in facilities. The roof was over 20-years-old and it needed repair.”
CP: You mentioned the renovation and makeovers to the building have those been completed?
Garcia: We are constantly trying to improve the building. When we had the renovation, not all of the building was renovated and some pieces got more renovation than other. This office for example, got carpeting, paint, and ceiling lights, but others didn’t even get that. So, we need to make sure we keep the building progressing, well maintained. Uses change, student desires change; we want to make sure we keep up with those things. For example, one of the things we are doing with some of the capital fund we got last year is replacing windows in the Aspen Rooms, those windows are, I think, fifty-three-years-old, and so, they are not very energy efficient, so we use money to make those kinds of changes because it looks the same on the outside, you may not notice it, but in reality we’ll have a better sealed are and a double-paned or triple-paned glass that’ll be much more energy efficient than what we have in there now. So, we do things like that all the time.
CP: The zero percent increase and $45,000 dollar deduction seemed to be a big compromise on your part; do you feel that would make it easier for Legislative Council to take more of a license and take more liberties with your budget?
Garcia: Well, I mean, it was a compromise. As you said, we are actually losing capital under that proposal. I hope that doesn’t give the people on Leg Council the license to cut because you can do without this, you can do without more. I would hope that’s not the approach that was not my intent to give them that kind of an idea. It was a way of helping them reach their goal that I believe was zero plus zero, and I gave them zero plus zero. It’s a good deal; take it. But, for some reason, they want to look at other things as well, and I think that they are because they personally don’t value those particular things; I think it is individuals that don’t value them. It’s not Leg Council as a whole. But it might be just individuals that sit on Leg Council. I really would hope they would consider the other students that do value these programs and the services that we provide.