CA Fees Go to Stadium Renovation, Sour Investment Deal
While students across California face steep fee hikes, some projects the revenues are being spent on are raising eyebrows among students and reporters. UCLA is using student money for a costly renovation to its main sports stadium, and Cal State Sacramento used student money to patch an investment gone wrong.
UCLA had been planning to renovate Pauley Pavillion since 2006, when administrators drew up a plan to raise $100 million from private contributors for a $185 million project that includes a high-definition scoreboard, expanded locker rooms and additional cushioned seating. But after the recession made private contributors harder to come by, the school decided to make up the difference with $25 million from student fees.
Richard Bergman, originally a fundraiser for the Pauley Pavilion renovation, said that using student fees to fund the renovation “seems like a strange priority.” He notes that most students will be unable to benefit from the renovation anyway, as good seats cost more than Lakers tickets.
Bergam said administrators should have scaled back their rebuilding plans when faced with the lack of funding.
In 2000, a student referendum set aside $15 million of the fees to maintain two older campus buildings, and the remaining $10 million to repair some student facilities.
UCLA’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Olsen conceded that the referendum did not include any plans about Pauley Pavilion. However, he said, “it was always clearly understood that as the revenues grew, additional projects could be appropriately funded by those fees."
"Students really weren't involved in the process, beyond maybe some rubber-stamp committee," said UCLA Student Regent Jesse Bernal. "I don't think they know enough about it.”
Similarly, at Cal State Sacramento, administrators pulled money from the school’s general fund—comprised of student fees and tax dollars—to cover an investment deal that went sour. The general fund money is typically utilized for professor’s salaries, utility bills and other education costs.
In 2007, University Enterprises Inc., an independent foundation affiliated with the University, used over $35 million worth of private donations to buy a commercial office building near campus. Administrators planned to hold classes in half of the building, and lease the other half to bring in revenue.
When the real estate bubble burst, the investment proved unwise. President Alexander Gonzalez said the school paid $5.6 million last year to prevent University Enterprises Inc. from foreclosing the building.
"It does kind of look like a gift of public money to the foundation," said Boilard in the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Auditors from the state attorney general’s office are focusing on both the UCLA and CSS expenditures.
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