Building fee aids new rec center

This fall, like every term, every student will pay both tuition and fees. One of these fees, the building fee, has remained a semi-mystery, posing such questions as what is it, what does it buy, who spends it and who benefits from it?

Most fees remain self-explanatory. The building fee is a slightly different story.

Full-time PSU students will have to pay $35 this fall, while the Student Building Fee Committee decides how the money will be spent for construction or renovation on campus.

All students in the Oregon University System pay a building fee. When it comes to fees, Portland State students get off easier than those in some other institutions. At the University of Oregon, students also pay an energy surcharge and a recreation center fee. A full-time undergraduate pays $158 more in fees per term at U of O than at PSU.

The lesser understood PSU building fee engages the work of a Student Building Fee Committee that is assisted by advisers and staff. This committee meets somewhat sporadically, mainly because its work involves preparing for each biennium, not for day-to-day operations.

One member of the Student Building Fee Committee is Christie Harper, who works as PSU student fitness and activities director and also serves as a student senator. Her pet project, which has been pushed along to the conceptual and site planning stage by a task force, is a proposed student recreational center. Whether this could be financed out of building fees is a potential still unsettled.

Currently, Harper feels a sense of frustration with the situation of the committee, as do others.

“We don’t know how much money we have,” she says.

The state Legislature, still stalled in Salem, hasn’t determined how much funding will be allotted to PSU.

The committee’s job is to plan and ask for money for major campus building projects or renovations in each biennium. All requests have been long in the pipeline for the current 2003-2005 biennium. It’s time now for the Student Building Fee Committee to consider projects for the 2005-2007 biennium.

With the 2003-2005 requests already in place, the committee convened its last meeting on graduation day in June. Its chair, David Jiminez, graduated, and the committee has not met this summer, awaiting some additional appointments from Amara Marino, ASPSU president.

The original 2003-2005 proposal by the PSU committee called for an available allotment of $11 million. Of this, $6 million was to go to SMSU seismic upgrade, $3.5 million to completion of the renovation and expansion of Helen Gordon Child Development Center, and $4 million for Peter Stott Center improvements, leaving a deficit of $2.5 million.

The original idea for the Stott Center was to provide better facilities for student recreation. Currently, recreation vies for space and time in the center with athletics and physical-education classes.

The proposed Stott Center improvements were dropped. A task force, in which Harper is active, wants to shift emphasis to the construction of the separate recreation center. Some money has been shifted to the Gordon Center to speed up completion.

A balance sheet going back to the 1979-1981 biennium shows a variety of projects supported by the fee. Most prominent is SMSU remodels. Other beneficiaries have included tennis courts, Helen Gordon Center, Stott Center, Student Health Center, Campus Childcare Center, Native American Center, Walk of the Heroines and rock wall construction.

One of the early tasks of the new building fee committee will be to ask students to submit proposals for projects. Also, Harper emphasized, there will be numerous sessions for student input on the proposed recreation center.

If a rec center were constructed, it would require a recreation fee from each student. Harper estimated this could be anywhere from $35 to $60 a term.

University of Oregon students currently pay a recreation center fee of $15.25 a term.

“My goal is the students don’t start paying the fee until the building opens,” Harper said.

The new student rec center may open as soon as 2006.