Board approves tuition, replaces renewable energy fee

Students will not be paying a fee originally designed to purchase renewable energy, the UK Board of Trustees decided yesterday.

The board approved tuition and student fees for the next school year yesterday. It passed a 9 percent tuition increase for in-state students and a 6.6 percent for out-of-state students. The board approved a $36 increase in student fees, removing a recommendation for a 50-cent UK Greenthumb fee by Pat Terrell, UK’s vice president for the Office of Student Affairs.

Terrell presented her proposal to the Board of Trustee’s Student Affairs Committee yesterday morning. Earlier this spring, the seven-member Student Fee Committee recommended a 75-cent fee, but Terrell proposed 50 cents.

Staff trustee Russ Williams proposed an amendment removing the Greenthumb fee, which would have given UK Greenthumb and UK’s Sustainability Task Force oversight for about $13,000 during the fall semester. Instead, he proposed adding 50 cents to the Student Center fee charged to every student.

The amendment and the new student fee amounts passed in the Student Affairs Committee by a 3-1 vote. Student Government President Nick Phelps and trustee Sandy Patterson were the other two votes in favor of the amendment. Faculty trustee Jeff Dembo opposed it.

In an interview after the meeting, Williams said he wanted the cut because the student fees proposal did not detail any specifics on how the money would be spent; it only gave the amount.

Phelps voted for the amendment for similar reasons.

“There was no clear vision, and it shouldn’t have even made it that far,” Phelps said.

Williams also said that he wanted the Greenthumb fee removed because other fee-based services did not receive the money they wanted from the proposal and because UK President Lee Todd’s position is that the university, not students, should fund sustainability efforts.

The amended student fee recommendation went from the Student Affairs Committee to the Finance Committee, where it passed unanimously. It then passed unanimously in the full board meeting.

Taylor Shelton, co-coordinator of UK Greenthumb, said the organization does not have an itemized budget for how to spend the money but said it would have been used for renewable energy.

“Anybody who said we didn’t make it clear, I call shenanigans on them. We said what we would do, even if we didn’t have it penny by penny,” Shelton said.

Todd has said he will supplement the funding for sustainable energy through discretionary or non-recurring funding, said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. In the context of UK’s $2 billion operating budget for the 2008-09 school year, it will not be impossible to find $13,000, he said.

While details have not been worked out, the Sustainability Task Force would probably have oversight of the money, and UK Greenthumb would have input, Blanton said.

Taylor said he is skeptical if the funding will go to the sustainable energy goals the Greenthumb fee would have provided for. It might, instead, go to smaller education efforts, he said.

In 2006, students voted for a referendum that would support a sustainability fee of between $6 and $8. The SG referendum was non-binding, meaning UK does not have to enforce it, and students approved it at about a 2-to-1 ratio.

Terrell said while she saw a total $6-to-$8 student fee increase as a possibility, she did not think a new fee of $6 or $8 for sustainability would be realistic in the next few years.

Not passing the Greenthumb fee ignored the resolution and student voices, Shelton said. To sit at the full board meeting and hear trustees vote against the fee was shocking, he said.

“I was excited about the coincidence of Earth Day and that UK is moving toward a sustainable campus, but somehow UK finds a way to let me down every time,” Shelton said.

The tuition and fees, including room and board and dining costs, will now go to the Council on Postsecondary Education for approval in May. For the first time, the CPE will hold hearings on tuition rates for each university on April 30 and May 1.