The University Park City Council approved a 50 cent addition to residents’ utility bills Tuesday, in an effort to sustain the city’s college scholarship program.
Residents can opt out of the program by phone, mail, or email, said city spokesman Steve Mace. Mayor Dick Davis has expressed trepidation over the fee for more than a year, but eventually voted for its inclusion.
Davis suggested an opt-in program, like “bar association bills, where I opt-in to help with pro-bono work.” Councilman Bob Clark reminded Davis that when the program started three years ago, the Council attempted that.
The results? Out of the 7,700 households in University Park, five opted-in, three of which were councilmembers.
In July, the city sent a letter to resident, informing them of the fee possibility. It received close to 60 letters in return, with two-thirds of the letters expressing a desire to go forward.
The scholarship program provides small — $500 to $2,000 — scholarships to city employees’ children. Approximately 15 students are awarded funds each fall and spring semester. The city estimates that it would need to raise $5 to $6 million in one-time donations to keep the fund self-sustaining (via interest) in perpetuity, said Councilman Tommy Stewart, who oversaw a committee charged with determining a funding option.
If every household in University Park remains in the program (pulls out calculator, does quick math), the city would bank $4.6 million for the fund. As of Tuesday, 19 households had already expressed a desire to opt-out, Mace said.
Update: I’m a dolt. Just got off the phone with finance director Kent Austin, who (rightfully) questioned my math. The correct number is $46,200. I forgot to convert dollars to cents, which is why I’m working at a newspaper and not a bank. Apologies for that ridiculous over-estimation.