Funding for utilities is questioned

Courtesy: Matt Shelar

Utility costs on campus are broken up by electric, gas, geothermal, sewer, trash and water.

The most expensive of these are electric and gas. The newest is geothermal energy.

These utilities are paid for by a state-dictated plan called the central utility budget.

For all buildings considered property of Boise State, the cost of utilities last year was $5,031,534 and cost an average monthly fee of approximately $419,285. However, it is unclear whether or not these utility costs are covered by student tuition and fees.

In charge of this budget at Boise State is Barry Burbank, the university’s senior financial analyst.

“The central utility funds are those that are appropriated in source. Appropriated budgets are likely state-taxpayer, but may be tuition,” Burbank said. “I can’t tell you the difference when I get my budgets between those two entities.”

The two entities to which Burbank refers are appropriated budgets and auxiliary budgets.

According to the Glossary of Budget Terms on Boise State’s website, “Appropriated budgets are controlled and are not allowed to be overspent,” while auxiliary budgets are “self-supporting units within the University.”

“The way tuition goes through the state—it simply comes back to us and they don’t tell us which piece is which. It’s just a source of funding,” Burbank said.

In accordance with the Budget Office’s revenue projections, in 2008 there were approximately 19,000 students enrolled at Boise State and the university was allowed $88 million dollars by the state (i.e. tax-payers).

This year’s enrollment includes roughly 22,000 students, but state-funding has been reduced to about $78 million dollars.

“When the bubble burst in 2008 they had to go through hold-backs. Tax receipts were down because income was down. It has not been restored to that level,” Burbank said. “That means we look at tuition to help fill the gap.”

Affected immensely by this fiscal “bubble burst” was the cost of Boise State’s physical plant. Physical plant is the designated term which describes general upkeep for campus facilities.

Included in the cost of physical plant are utilities costs.

Five years ago the cost of physical plant was about $14.5 million dollars.

It has now escalated to about $21 million dollars.

To help these matters the university has implemented the utilization of geothermal energy, beginning in 2013.

“We are now on the geothermal loop with the city of Boise, and we’re adding up to 10 buildings that will heat as much as we can via geothermal,” Burbank said. “There are no greenhouse gases, it’s more efficient than natural gas and it’s always on.”

To put it in perspective, the geothermal bill cost $11,000 last year.

The gas bill cost a little under a million.

Though the university’s higher-ups are constructing helpful and efficient solutions, the bills still have to be paid somehow.

Taylor Sievers, senior general business major, thinks it would be ridiculous if any utility expenses were tacked onto the cost of tuition and fees, as students do not always utilize everything campus has to offer.

“Most businesses pay for their own maintenance. They don’t expect the customers to pay an additional fee,” Sievers said. “If there are parts of this campus I never visit, why should I have to worry about their electric bills?”

In agreement with Sievers is Stela Saltaga, senior communication major.

Saltaga argues that there are people who use campus services who are not students.

“I know there are plenty of people who use things on campus and don’t even go here. I don’t understand why it would be necessary for students to have to pay for other people to use the tools that are supposed to be provided for us,” Saltaga said.

Yet with all the help the state has granted, it’s still unclear whether or not the cost of utilities is covered by tuition and fees.

“It’s a mystery. It’s just the way the system’s set up.

How much of the produce proceeds in an Albertsons market pay utilities? It’s that same challenge,” Burbank said.

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