A TAX on student groups?

At least 60 people, including students and faculty members, crowded Smith 333 last thursday for the Student Fee Committee퀌_s (SFC) regular meeting. Attendants listened as representatives of university administration announced a proposed two percent tax on expenditures of SFC funded groups.

The crowd, unusually large for an SFC meeting, listened as Jay Kenton, vice president for finance and administration, and Cathy Dyck, associate vice president for finance and planning, presented their plan to cover costs during a low point in Portland State’s budget.

“Our backs are to the wall, financially,” Kenton said, noting that the current budget is probably the worst it퀌_s been since the Great Depression.

Instead of raising tuition more or cutting programs, the two percent tax will be put in place to tax certain expenditures of SFC funded groups, excluding Smith Memorial Student Union and athletics.

The expenditures that will be taxed are services such as accounts receivable and payroll. When an SFC funded group uses these services and others, there is an expense that needs to be covered. The tax would cover these costs by generating around $109,000 or about $2 for every full time student per term.

Groups facing this tax will either budget for the extra expense or ask for more student fee money to cover it. If groups choose the latter then students could see their student incidental fee increase.

“We have the lowest incidental fee in the state,퀌� Tracy Earll, SFC chair, said, 퀌�and something like this forces us to raise it.퀌�

Earll’s opposition to the tax was shared by many present at the meeting.

Christy Harper, an SFC member, noted that students already pay for services on campus such as childcare and the information desk.

“If you’re going to ask for any more, we need to get something back,” Harper said.

Another SFC member, Chase LoGreco, stated he would rather see a tuition increase than a tax on SFC funded groups.

While SFC members and students from various SFC funded groups voiced their opinions to the administration퀌_s decision, Douglas Samuels, vice provost for student affairs, expressed his support for the students.

Mentioning his concern when he first heard of the tax, he said, “We need to do more than ride the backs of students to pay the bills.”

Kenton and Dyck stressed the fact that numerous alternatives were considered before coming to the idea of a tax.

“There are very few revenue options we didn’t consider,” Kenton said.

Some students questioned not only the tax, but also how long it would last. Kenton and Dyck did not have a timeline, but were open to keeping the tax short term if the budget problem was short term.

With this proposed two percent tax looming over their proceedings, SFC members and other students do not want to see student incidental fees increased.

“The student fee is something we hold sacred because it’s for the students, by the students,” said Joe Johnson, ASPSU vice president.

After campaigning on the achievement of avoiding a rise in student fees, Earll now faces the challenge of accomplishing the same success with this year’s SFC.