Cal Poly employees protest increased parking fees

Cal Poly officials hope to start building new student housing on a large parking lot located across from existing dorms on Grand Avenue in 2015.
Cal Poly officials hope to start building new student housing on a large parking lot located across from existing dorms on Grand Avenue in 2015.

Cal Poly employees are facing higher parking fees imposed this summer to help pay for two newer parking structures and to keep the school’s parking budget solvent, a university official said.

In response, staff and faculty union leaders have filed grievances to protest the new rates, which they say Cal Poly employees shouldn’t have to shoulder.

The university implemented permanent fee boosts on June 1.

“Any time you raise a fee, the purpose is to meet revenues to pay a bond and maintain your level of service,” said Cindy Campbell, who oversees parking services as the university’s associate director of the University Police Department.

But Graham Archer, Cal Poly’s California Faculty Association president, said the increases violate the contract between the union and the university.

“I think it is shameful for the university to try to illegally increase fees, especially in light of years of near-zero salary increases,” Archer said. “We have not been receiving the raises we should, and to go ahead and nickel and dime us on parking fees is an insult.”

Cal Poly employs more than 2,000 people, including faculty, academic support personnel, physicians and skilled trade workers. A handful of unions represent the various groups.

The largest fee jump by percentage increase was for weekly parking rates. Those spiked from between $4.20 and $4.62 to a new fee of $15 per week, depending on union affiliation.

Daily permits jumped from between $1.75 and $1.91 to $5, depending on the union.

Quarterly parking fees rose by $0.63 for faculty, and up to $9 more for staff. They now range from $46.80 to $54 depending on the group.

Annual rates climbed by $2.52 more for faculty to as much as $36 more for some staff, now ranging from $187 to $216.

Student parking rates were not raised, but students previously paid more for parking. With the adjustments, students and employees now pay the same for daily and weekly permits although students still pay more for annual parking permits.

Twelve-month rates for off-campus student commuters cost $500. Most students, however, pay $375 for permits that cover them for three quarters.

Campbell said the employee fee increases are aimed at helping pay for two parking structures near Poly Canyon Village that opened in 2008 and 2009. The university spent $37 million on them and now pays $2.1 million annually on bond repayment costs.

The faculty union contends that salary increases are supposed to stay in line with parking fee increases, Archer said.

Cal Poly faculty received their first raise in six years last year, a flat $80 per month increase. Monthly faculty parking rates increased from $15.39 to $15.60, which is a larger percentage increase than some faculty received in their pay, Archer said.

Cal Poly’s largest staff member union, the California State University Employees Union, also has a pending grievance.

CSUEU president Joan Kennedy said the agreement between her union and Cal Poly states parking fees may not “exceed an increase of $3 per month.”

Kennedy said the daily and weekly permits both improperly exceed that amount. However, a monthly permitting option for staff offered by the university was raised from $15.06 to $18 — falling just within that $3 difference.

“We believe the university has violated the contract,” Kennedy said.

The university says it’s complying with the agreements.

“Under the terms of the contracts, the university is allowed to increase staff and faculty parking fees in accordance with their collective bargaining agreements,” said Karen Webb, interim vice president for administration and finance, in a statement. “Our goal is to adhere to the contract that the unions signed.”

Webb said the increases are an issue of fairness.

“We’ve got students who are subsidizing staff and faculty parking,” she said. “So we believe it is only fair to address this issue when allowed by the contract.”

The university’s Parking Services program must cover its own costs without contributions from the general fund. In 2011-12, the program showed a loss of nearly $367,000 and had to pull from its reserves.

Campbell said that, after cutbacks to equipment costs and other expenditures, the parking program took in $262,000 over expenses. But that number has dipped to around $58,000 this year, she said, not enough to cover maintenance and contingency costs.

The unions say one reason the parking budget is hurting is because employees are responding to the university’s campaign to use alternative transportation such as buses, bikes and carpooling.

Cal Poly’s bus ridership has more than doubled over the past decade, with more than 600,000 passenger trips last year, according to the university’s biennial “Sustainability” report.

“Since our employees are now carpooling and using transit systems more, the university is not selling as many permits as they might,” Kennedy said. “We’re trying to do what they’ve suggested with alternative transportation.”

The university is seeking to find a balance between covering expenses, encouraging public transportation, and still make parking affordable, Campbell said.

“We’ve raised the prices because we’ve had to, but we’re trying to make it affordable for those who choose to drive,” Campbell said. “You don’t want to defeat the parking supply.”