With the ASI elections finished and over, it seems that the frenzy surrounding our campus will return to normal. Sadly, I think I will actually miss the forests of stake signs spammed over every lawn and road. While only 22.5 percent of students took the time to vote, the run up to the ASI elections gave many students a reason to learn more about issues surrounding campus life. Instead of talking about school work and parties, people talked about candidates and issues like sustainability (personal eye roll), fee increases and transportation. Now that the ASI elections are over, it’s easy to return to our everyday lives, but there is still more that needs to be done, especially in our local community.
In less than a month, on June 6, San Luis Obispo County will have an election for tax-collector, superintendent and treasurer, along with a variety of other positions and propositions. Of these positions, the position of treasurer has one of the strongest affects on our community. Running against the current treasurer, a life-long bureaucrat who has been there for 29 years, is fiscal conservative Matt Kokkonen. By fiscal conservative, I mean a person who wants to balance the budget, not by increasing fees or taxes, but by forcing government to live within its means by stoping or cutting fees and taxes that hurt overall growth.
As many of you know, to raise revenue in San Luis Obispo voters usually have to approve a tax increase. However, the city, like many places, has resorted to imposing certain fees that do not need voter approval to raise revenue. Many of these fee increases directly affect the amount we pay for housing, and all ultimately affect the money that comes out of your pocket book.
As an example, around six months ago, the city imposed mandatory fire inspections (before you could have just asked for an inspection) for all residential areas. The result was a significant fee for everyone (although it’s worse for students) living in San Luis Obispo. In Mustang Village (where I live), this fee would have been extremely expensive and as a result the city agreed to cap the fee at $30,000 per year. Of course, Mustang Village then passes these fees off to students, who in turn pay them, all the while grumbling and cursing but also wondering why it costs so much to live in such a decrepit place (at least, I wonder this every time the bill comes).
To those of you who live in Mustang Village and anyone else suffering from increased rent prices, hidden fee increases like the fire fee are a big part of the reason. While many in the city could care less about the woes of students, Mr. Kokkonen was one of those who opposed this increase and actually tried to reason with the city.
While this is a direct example of one fee increase there are many others. Obviously, the city must balance its budget, but it doesn’t need to impose one fee after another to do so. Instead, city governments and other levels of government can reduce spending. When financial times become difficult, cities should tighten their belts and begin to live within their means. Although a fire fee doesn’t seem like a big deal, it’s only one part of a larger problem. Each new fee, be it a fire inspection fee, a cockroach inspection fee, a lighting inspection fee or any fee, drives up the cost of living for students. When June 6 comes around, students should endorse fiscal conservatism and vote for Mr. Kokkonen.
Brian Eller is a materials engineering sophomore and a Mustang Daily columnist.