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Money distribution SFAC discusses budget presentations

Student Fees Advisory Committee Chair Michelle Alvarado listens to budget presentations during the Feb. 19 meeting in REIN 1.102 on the Edinburg campus. ENA CAPUCION/ THE RIDER

The Student Fees Advisory Committeemet for the second time Feb. 19 on the Edinburg campus in REIN 1.102.

The SFAC meets annually to provide guidance to UT Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey on allocating the student service fees for Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017.

Representatives from eight departments and sections delivered their proposals to the SFAC. These included the athletics department and shuttle services requesting a portion of money from the student fees budget to be allocated to their specified area.

Athletics Director Chris King was the first to present to the committee. In the past year, the athletics department has
invested in scholarships for athletes participating in men’s and women’s soccer. The department has added 750 additional bleacher seats and outdoor lights to the UTRGV Soccer Track & Field Complex and will expand its television broadcast through Time Warner Sports in the near future. From private funding, the painting of the baseball stadium will be completed by the end of May. King requested funding for scholarships, salaries for staff and travel expenses. He spoke highly of the university’s athletes for their hard work and their success.

“We call [ourselves] one team-one culture, 16 sport programs, 11 head coaches, 47 staff and 267 student athletes,” King said. “Our process, our mission, our vision, our values, our expectations and beliefs, our short- and long-term planning and it’s our purpose [to prepare] our student athletes for excellence in life from the time we recruit to the time they graduate. That’s who we are.”

Rodney Gomez, director of Parking and Transportation, and Roberto Cantu, executive director of Auxiliary Bus Services, presented on behalf of the parking and transportation services department. Gomez and Cantu had two requests, a one-time expense of four new shuttle buses and six bus passenger shelters. Another request was for the support of ongoing operational expenses such as drivers’ salaries, maintenance costs, fuel and three new potential programs that have an estimated cost of about $1 million.

“We ask for a specific number based on what we’ve gotten in terms of historical expenses and what we foresee–we’ve gotten estimates and quotes, for example, the car share program,” Gomez said. “We’ve done some research on how much it would cost, so I think we have a firm number.”

Based on the transportation survey faculty and staff took last fall, about 32 percent of students do not own a reliable
vehicle and about 35 percent need transportation from their home to the campus closest to them. To address this issue, Gomez and Cantu proposed three new programs: the van pool, the car share and the rideshare.

The van pool will allow students, who don’t have a ride from home to campus,a means of transportation. The car share will allow students to rent a car for a certain amount of time. The rideshare will be an Uberlike service, where students in an area can request a car ride. Once placed in operation, the three transportation services may charge a small fee to the participants.

“I think if we were not to get the funding, we will continue to operate and we might not be able to keep up with the increased demand of transportation,” Cantu said. “Students are really showing a lot of interest and a lot of participation, so we might not be able to keep up with that. Right now, the way that the proposal is built, we are trying to anticipate future growth as well. Based on the trends that we’ve seen, there will definitely be a need for an expansion.”

Last fall, about 5,500 students used the Vaquero Express Campus Connector to commute from Edinburg to Brownsville and vice versa. This semester, Gomez and Cantu have estimated the numbers will increase to about 22,000 students.

With UTRGV’s continued growth, the numbers will only increase.

“I really feel that this transportation system that we’ve built … is really essential to being able to provide the
students the services that they need,” Cantu said. “I think [Gomez], during the presentation, noted that you can have all
the best services in the world, but if you don’t have the transportation to get the people that need those services to and from where they need to be, then it does no good.”

SFAC Chair Michelle Alvarado had a closed session soon after the presentations finished. During this time, Alvarado and nine other voting members focused on Fiscal Year 2016 one-time requests.

“The majority of the requests that came in are for the next fiscal year and so we have a timeline or a date where all those proposals are due,” Alvarado said. “But there’s also opportunities for the partners to request a one-time funding.”

A similar SFAC meeting was held last Friday on the Brownsville campus.

The committee will then hold a closed session from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday.

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