A proposed 50 percent increase in University of Maryland parking fees that is bitterly opposed by service and clerical workers took a big step closer to final approval yesterday.
The finance committee of the university system's Board of Regents voted to recommend that the full board approve the fee increase for the College Park campus when it meets July 10. University officials say the extra money is needed to pay for new parking garages.
The fee increase -- from $220 a year to $330 for faculty and staff -- would take effect Nov. 1.
Fees for students who reside on campus also would be raised, from $191 to $287. For students who commute, fees would go from $94 to $141. The fee increases for students would take effect in August.
Union representatives with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 1,900 university workers at College Park, vowed to continue to fight the higher fees.
The union maintains that any increase should be subject to collective bargaining, and it has filed complaints of unfair labor practices against the regents and the university for refusing to negotiate on the issue.
"With today's vote, the board is continuing to break the law," said Joe Lawrence, a union spokesman. "Their action is an attack on the integrity of the collective bargaining law."
About 50 employees attended the meeting, many carrying protest signs. They said the fee increase would pose a hardship for lower-paid workers.
Jacqueline D. Adams, a 30-year university employee who works as an administrative assistant, noted that though parking fees would increase, workers aren't getting a pay raise. "To me, it's a slap in the face," she said.
But university officials said the fee increase is needed, mainly to pay debt service on parking garages that have been built recently or are under construction.
Charles F. Sturtz, a former College Park vice president who is now a consultant to the university, said new buildings on campus have reduced the number of parking spaces on surface lots that had been available.
Maryland law requires that auxiliary services such as parking be self-supporting, he said, so money has to be raised to pay for the new parking facilities.
Finance committee members were clearly concerned about the impact of higher fees on university workers.
"I'm very uncomfortable with doing this to the working people of College Park," said regent Patricia S. Florestano.
Other members also voiced sympathy and promised to re-examine the issue early next year, after a task force on parking reports to the board.
"There is no happy ending here," said regent David Nevins. "We have to build these facilities, and we have to pay for them."
The committee failed to approve the fee increase on an initial vote. Two regents voted in favor, two against and two abstained. After further discussion, the recommendation passed, 5 to 1.
Voting in favor were Nevins, Bruce Marcus, William Wood, Nina Rodale Houghton and Leronia A. Josey. Florestano cast the sole "no" vote.