As gas prices remain high, University mulls cuts for next year

Despite a plea from President Bush for Americans to conserve energy, University officials said they have no plans to cut back on energy consumption by restricting the use of vehicles. But as gas prices continue to rise, the University may have to cut back on vehicle use next year.

Johnnie Osborne, chief financial officer for Student and Academic Support Services, said that if gas prices do not decrease, then “in the next couple of months some hard decisions are going to have to be made.” SASS oversees several fleets of vehicles, including University Police’s and the Mount Vernon shuttle’s.

“Who knows where costs will go in the next couple of weeks and months?” Osborne said. “Eventually the University may be forced to take some sort of action, but as of now no long term strategy has been decided.”

If gas prices do not decrease, the University’s financial planners will need to reevaluate programs and possibility make cuts to them.

“The problem is that we are working with a limited number of finite dollars that must fund the entirety of the University projects,” Osborne said. “There are some things that have to happen that you cannot cut out of a budget. You have to look at your services and prioritize. ”

In a speech two weeks ago at the Department of Energy, Bush called for all citizens to help conserve gasoline and oil expenditures. His comments came after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged Gulf Coast oil refineries, driving gas prices in most areas upward of $2.75 a gallon. Many stations in D.C. are selling gas at more than $3 a gallon.

On Sept. 2, The Hatchet reported that the University had no plans to alter the schedule of the Mount Vernon-Foggy Bottom shuttle, or its use of University Police Department vehicles. Officials reiterated that position last week.

“There are no immediate plans to reduce the Vern Express schedule,” said Robert Synder, director of Mount Vernon Campus Life, in an e-mail.

“Doing so would have an adverse impact on the ability of our students and other members of the University community to utilize the Mount Vernon Campus as the academic, extracurricular, and residential resource it has become for us all,” Synder wrote.

University officials said they currently have no way of cutting back on Mount Vernon-Foggy Bottom shuttle, or on UPD 4-RIDE escort services, because they perceive them as necessary functions.

Last month, UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said the 4-RIDE escort service, used to transport students around the Foggy Bottom campus, would not be curtailed either.

“We can’t really change how much we drive, as it is the nature of our business to patrol the campus, to respond to calls for service and to provide escorts via 4-RIDE,” Stafford wrote in an e-mail.

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