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Alternative auxiliary fund distribution not supported

April 23, 2009

An alternative method for the cut in auxiliary funds, the account that funds housing, meals and parking at UW-River Falls, for the UW System has been proposed by Lisa Wheeler, vice chancellor for administration and finance, and supported by the UWRF Student Senate.

The attention to the auxiliary funds began at the beginning of March, when Gov. Jim Doyle released the 2009-11 budget cut.

According to the March 2 UW Board of Regents press release, Doyle requested UWRF to give $2,006,750 of its total auxiliary funds, totaling $25 million from all UW campuses. UWRF’s cut is the fifth highest and despite the difference in size, UW-Madison exceeds UWRF by only $139,000. UW-La Crosse tops the list with a $5,371,500 budget cut.

All UW campuses have been notified of the alternative assessment, yet the reactions have not been supportive.

“There has been, I would say, minimal or no interest at looking at any other way except the [auxiliary funds] balance,” Wheeler said.

According to the new alternative distribution model, UWRF would give $1,439,500 back, a savings of $567,250.

“The new method would be better for seven other campuses, plus the UW System and Administration would give back less money,” Wheeler said. “But there are schools that will give back more money.”

The recently released alternative assessment model redistributes the amounts being cut among UW campuses in efforts to treat each campus fairly.

“The proposal is to have 50 percent of the cut based on how much we have in auxiliary funds and 50 percent of a campuses’ operating expenses [over a year],” Student Sen. Spencer Gansluckner said. “We are just balancing it out.”

According to Wheeler, the lacking in funds from the state for the 2009-11 budget resulted in the need for additional funds. The proposed $25 million will help cover the difference in support.

“It went to the UW System, and they basically just needed to find a way to get the money,” Gansluckner said.

The specific amounts being asked from each campus result entirely from the balance of the auxiliary funds account.

“They basically took a snapshot of all the accounts, and those figures are not accurate,” Lizeht De La Torre, vice president of Student Senate, said.

According to Gansluckner, the specific cut in the auxiliary funds is based on what each account possessed in the summer of 2008.

“They are punishing people for saving more—that is the issue,” Gansluckner said. “They basically just see it as sitting in the account, money just not being used.”

Doyle’s budget cut has caught the attention of a UWRF student as well.

“I don’t think they should ask us to give more money because we are smaller school so there is less students and we have a smaller campus and less people using all of the parking and housing,” UWRF junior Christine Lundgren said. “That is a ridiculous amount to have to give.”

An additional reason behind the alternative assessment plan is the lack of support for all students.

According to Wheeler, the $25 million will go towards financial aid for only Wisconsin students. Due to the increase in tuition, the auxiliary fund will help support students through this low economic state. The additional funds will also support the held-harmless program, an opportunity for students who make $60,000 or less to be omitted from the increase in tuition.

“The auxiliary funds will be coming from all our students, but it will only be helping about half of our students,” Wheeler said.

According to Gansluckner, the alternative distribution assessment was recently sent out to all the chancellors in the UW System, yet no feedback has been received.

The lack of support from enough schools has affected the potential outcome.

“The proposal doesn’t help enough schools to benefit,” Cindy Bendix, Student Senate president, said.

As discussed at the April 14 Student Senate meeting, the Senate is planning a trip to Madison by the beginning of May to lobby for a more fair resolution to this issue. The Senate plans to send six students to represent UWRF, and they hope to have the support of at least four schools, as well.

“We already have [UW-] Eau Claire, that’s two, we just need four,” Matthew Dale, Student Senate legislative affairs director, said.

According to Bendix, UWRF is supported by UWEC, but it is not enough.

“Other schools say that it’s not that we don’t support you, but [the alternative assessment] doesn’t offer enough benefits. So, as of right now we don’t have any other schools’ support,” Bendix said. “UWEC students are in support, but the chancellor is not.”

Wheeler and the Student Senate are fighting for an alternative method by reaching out to other campuses and with future plans to lobby, yet the cut in auxiliary funds seems definite.

“More than likely, they will take the money,” De La Torre said.

The possible cut of $2 million from the UWRF auxiliary funds will affect the future plans on campus.

“We would adjust to the changes. One would be our capital projects, and look to see if we can put off modifications to our future plans,” Wheeler said. “We would also look at rates. It would not affect this year, but it would affect housing, meal plans and parking rates. Parking lots are built through parking fees. If we don’t have money, we will have parking shortages.”

According to Dale, if anyone has the power to change, it’s the students.

“Every student, take five to 10 minutes to write to the UW System,” Dale said at the March 31 Student Senate meeting. “We just need to get as many students aware as possible.”