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By Tory Hernandez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 5, 1997

Leaders question $40 Union fee

Two weeks before a student vote on a proposed $40 Student Union renovation fee, ASUA officials sought to turn referendum plans upside down yesterday by adding two new proposals to an already complex mix.

Presidential cabinet members Ryan Anderson and Brook Rosenbaum said they plan to cut the proposed $40 fee in half by using $25 million in academic bonding already authorized by the Arizona State Legislature.

Associated Students President Gilbert Davidson also said he will ask the ASUA Senate to amend the proposed ballot so it prompts a major administration-side fundraising effort to finance part of the Memorial Student Union project.

Both proposals must be approved by the Senate in order to be included in the referendum.

Rosenbaum said the $25 million in academic bonding authority could be put toward other new campus buildings if it goes unused on the Student Union project.

"We don't want the students getting charged for the fee and other buildings," said Rosenbaum, also an Arizona Students Association director.

To counter this, the ASA directors and ASUA cabinet members factored in the bonding to reduce costs.

After subtracting the $25 million, students would be left to fund $15.5 million, instead of $30 million, out of the $70 million estimated project cost.

Davidson said last night his plan is a "sunset clause" that would revoke a student fee after one or two years if the administration failed to figure out how to finance their part.

"We want to show the administration that we are serious and willing to step up to the plate," he said, "but we want them to step up with us."

He added he wanted to avoid a situation like the Student Recreation Center, where a $25 student fee meant for construction costs remained to fund operating costs of the center.

Rosenbaum said he hadn't not spoken with Davidson about the sunset clause, but liked the idea.

"It has the potential to be a great safeguard," he said. "I think it's another example of a way that the students can protect themselves from undo encroachment on their rights."

He added he believed some of the student leaders that drafted the original document were underinformed about the availability of $25 million in bonding.

"Even if they knew about it, the $25 million would be spent on other buildings so why not just spend it on the Union?" he said.

University of Arizona Chief Budget Officer Dick Roberts said that statement implied that the other buildings would not be beneficial to students. Additionally, to approve the money to be spent in this way would take three to four years, he said.

"This university has the IIF (Integrated Instructional Facility) building, the Union and library renovations," he said. "We have lots to do before we have time to talk about doing something else."

Davidson said he would support whatever it takes to get the project done, even if it meant going along with a new proposal.

"But by changing our stance midway though this, we are losing credibility with students and the administration," he said.

Davidson said he felt the larger fee was safer because it gave students more control.

Rosenbaum disagreed.

"What control did they really have?" he said. "We can debate about what 'control' is, but they only have control over the fee."

In the original referendum, which asked students to impose a $40 fee on themselves, senators approved an amendment stating administrators could not use academic bonding to fund the project.

Senators originally approved their amendment to eliminate academic bonding as it tended to increase tuition. Roberts agreed, but said there was no direct correlation.

"It takes into consideration rate, but not volume," he said. "The university may need a certain amount of dollars to pay off a debt, but if more students enroll they can apply those revenues."

Rosenbaum and Anderson said they hadn't been involved with the weekly student advisory group that drafted the original referendum.

"It's my fault that I haven't jumped on this issue sooner," Rosenbaum said.

Roberts said he was "mystified" as to why student leaders were suddenly coming forth with new options.

"We've covered this ground before," he said. "Suddenly people that didn't bother to come to the table say they know more about it than those who have been working on it a while."

In addition to content changes, Anderson, a former ASUA senator, has been added as a promotional representative for the referendum.

Davidson said he believed Anderson would get out into student community better.

"The focus of this campaign is educating the students and I don't think we're doing a very good job," he said.

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