Rec Center debts transferred to UA students

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

When it comes to the Student Recreation Center, students are paying more than they bargained for.

In 1985, students voted to pay a $25-per-semester fee beginning as soon as the Student Recreation Center opened in 1991.

These student fees would pay for two-thirds, or $10 million, plus any acquired debts of the $15 million facility. The remaining $5 million would be paid by gifts collected by the University of Arizona Alumni Association's Century 2 campaign.

But the money from the Alumni Association "was never realized," according to Saundra Taylor, vice president of student affairs. The Century 2 campaign produced only about $200,000 for the Student Recreation Center.

Alumni Association fund-raising campaigners could not be reached. The association said the fund raising "ended years ago."

In November, James Manilla from the association said that when the Century 2 campaign began in 1987, the SRC was a priority and the foundation put together a significant effort in both Tucson and Phoenix. But the effort only raised $200,000.

Once a facility is built and in operation it is very hard to convince people of the need for additional funds, Manilla said.

Grant Smith, director of campus recreation, said the $5 million generated from the fund-raising was intended to be put into an account to accrue interest to be used for operating the SRC and for future projects.

"We don't have a foundation of consistent funding so we have not had the flexibility we might have had," he said. "The Rec Center is already too small for the students

and is overcrowded; with that money maybe we could have added on by now."

Mike Remedi, Associated Students budget relations director, said it would be "almost impossible to get the gift money now."

"People don't like to donate to completed projects, they like to donate to ideas," he said.

There is no way to "force" the Alumni Association to pay the $5 million, since they gave the project their "best effort," Taylor said.

However, Remedi said it is unfair to require students to pay for more than they agreed to in the 1985 election.

He proposed to Taylor that the university reevaluate the way the student fees are spent so that the student fees can be eliminated sooner.

As of fall 1994, $6.65 million had been collected from student fees. Of this, about $1.4 million per year pays the year's bond debt payment.

But the student fees generate an extra $300,000 per year that is not used for the debt payments.

Every year, these marginal revenue costs have been used to pay for the operational costs of the building, Remedi said. Since 1991, about $1.25 million of the student fee money has been used for operational costs.

At current rates, the Student Recreation Center student fees would be continued until 2011 when the bond debt is paid off.

If the marginal revenue each year is in an interest-bearing account instead of being spent on operational costs, the students could stop paying fees four years earlier, Remedi said. The bond payments would continue until 2011, but 2007 would be the last year students had to pay the $25-per-semester fee.

Taylor said there is no other way to pay for the operation costs of the SRC.

But according to Remedi, operational costs "are not the student's problem."

"The fee was only supposed to cover bond debt; operation of the Rec Center is not our problem, it is the administrator's problem. Students will agree to pay the full $15 million, but the university needs to allow students to be fiscally responsible," he said. "If we invest the marginal revenues, we can stop paying fees earlier and the university can finish paying until 2011 without continuing to collect fees."

Smith said if the marginal revenue from the student fees cannot be used for operational costs, the Student Recreation Center would need to ask the university to contribute additional money.

About 34 percent of campus recreation's $1.1 million budget is funded by the university All Funds budget. The excess student fees and revenue produced in the department comprise the rest of the budget.

Taylor said "the students have an outstanding facility; I don't think anyone is disputing that. But the students want a trade off for having to pay the additional $5 million."

Taylor suggested to Remedi that the students' marginal revenue be deposited into an account for future expansion or renovations. The students would continue to pay the $25-per-semester fee until 2011.

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