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Finance Committee Recommends Rec Security Updates, 3.05 Percent Room And Board Increase

The Penn State Board of Trustees is meeting in Hershey on Thursday and Friday for the first meeting of the new year. 

In the second committee meeting of the morning, the Finance, Business, and Capital Planning recommended the approval of a $155 (3.05 percent) room and board semester increase for next year. The committee also recommended the approval of a $7.5 million installation of security updates at the White Building, Rec Hall, and the Natatorium. The initial operating budget proposed for the project was $420,000 and student government efforts got it down to $185,000.

Following a Freeh Report recommendation, the university adopted a police in July 2012 stipulating that those facilities are only useable by those with a valid university student or faculty/staff/trustee/retiree identification card. The project adds turnstiles to the three buildings and new space for support staff who will check identification.

“We’re at a place where we can’t find a $100,000 in the budget to hire a CAPS counselor so students’ mental health needs are met, and we’re about to spend $420,000 a year just to say we’re keeping townies out of the gym,” GPSA President, Finance committee member, and Onward State editor Kevin Horne said when before the proposed budget failed to initially pass.

Horne was happy to see that the new version of the project is down to $185,000 per year in operating costs. The original costs were $150,000 at the White Building, $95,000 per year at the Natatorium, and $175,000 at Rec Hall. The version passed today has those staffing costs at $50,000 for White, $15,000 for the Natatorium, and $120,000 for Rec Hall.

At its meeting on Wednesday, the University Park Undergraduate Association revisited the recreational facilities security update that was tabled in November thanks to efforts from the assembly. Following modifications to the resolution “Support of Amended Proposed Funds for Recreational Facility Access Modifications,” including removing the proposed cost increase for students, UPUA voted 29-3 to support the changes.

“We’re alleviating the burden of students having to pay for this, making this a lot more cost effective and common sense,” Representative Ryan Valencia said at the meeting.

There was little discussion at the committee meeting because the group met via webinar a few weeks ago to iron out all the details.

“The students are pleased with the Board and Administration’s efforts to reduce costs on the controlled access project and for working with us over recent weeks,” Horne said. “We wish it had been brought to the board with the $220,000 reduction and that it didn’t take a student resolution to get that number down, but that’s the role of this committee and the reason student representation and shared governance is so important.”

On the construction front, the committee passed a total of $151 million in projects that includes East Halls renovations ($65.1 million), a new building at North Halls ($33.6 million), the third phases of the Intramural Building expansion ($29.3 million), renovations of the Kostos Building at Hazleton ($15.5 million), and the $7.5 million recreational facility security upgrades.

It is up to the full board to officially approve these items at tomorrow’s meeting.

We’ll have more updates from Hershey as the meetings continue throughout the day. 

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