Escort service creating budget problem for ASUA

By Zach Thomas

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tight times are common among government agencies, but the ASUA Escort Service and Nighttime Safe Ride's recent budget shortfall of more than $6,000 required quick action to ensure continued service.

Unanticipated demands on payroll, vehicle repairs and fuel, as well as above-normal service demand and publicity, all contributed to the problem, said Tim Walker, director of both ride programs.

"The demand far exceeds our abilities right now," he said. "We don't have the money to meet this demand."

Resulting from an emergency meeting among Walker, ASUA President Ben Driggs and ASUA accountant Gail Tanner, the $6465.82 budget gap will be resolved by funding requests to various UA departments which benefit from the escort service and the sale of older vehicles in the escort service motor pool. Should a shortage of funds still remain, ASUA departmental budget cuts may be instituted over the semester break.

"We are committed to keep the service open," Driggs said. "The challenge is in budgeting, because last year's numbers do not necessarily reflect the current year."

Part of a federally-mandated program under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ASUA Escort Service has provided daytime rides to disabled students since 1990, serving locations both on and off campus. The daytime service is partially funded by $25,000 in retained fee money.

The Nighttime Safe Ride program, staffed by volunteers as opposed to paid employees, has an 11-year history of providing secure transportation at night.

Both programs initially had problems finding employees and volunteers, but are also now hampered by lack of equipment and training the new volunteers.

"The quality is not at last year's level," Walker said. "We didn't anticipate this kind of response."

As a result of this and the financial problems, the service is already operating below capacity, with one of the two carts broken.

However, two new electric carts, purchased last year and due to arrive within two weeks, should take some pressure off the embattled program.

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