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OSU Trustees Vote To Privatize Parking

Ohio State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday afternoon on a measure to privatize the university’s parking operations. “We are not only protecting our assets, we are protecting our ability to be competitive," OSU President E. Gordon Gee said. After hearing from Ohio State President Gordon Gee and the institution’s top financial advisers, the board of trustees agreed leasing its parking operations to a private company is in the school’s best interest. In exchange for handing over its parking system to Australian firm QIC Global Infrastructure for the next 50 years, Ohio State will get a lump-sum payment of $483 million. OSU officials say the money, once invested, will increase its endowment by nearly $5 billion and generate $3 billion in interest income. OSU Chief Financial Officer Geoff Chatas said the funds will act as a fiscal safety net. "If we do face financial issues because we have less state or federal support, these funds can also be there to help us bridge gaps we may have in the future," Chatas said. OSU has designated the money to support - among other things – faculty salaries and research, increase student aid and help pay for the university’s bus services, which will not be operated by the private company. The university isn’t giving up all its rights to operate traffic and parking. OSU can choose up to 220 events a year, such as move-in day or special events at the Schottenstein Center, where it can manage parking; although Ohio State would be required to reimburse the private operator for out-of-pocket costs if the university plans to keep any revenue from the event. And, in some cases, OSU would have to share revenue from the events. Some students and faculty have expressed concerns about increased privatization at a land-grant institution. But head of QIC Global Infrastructure, Ross Israel, said he wants to assure skeptics the company is committed to delivering the same level of service they’ve had in the past. “We’re not looking to make any changes to how the permit system runs and the nature of what people have experienced. If anything, we’re trying to work with them to improve that service over time," Israel said. As part of the deal, QIC will not increase parking rates by more than 5.5 percent each year during the first ten years of the arrangement. QIC will be responsible for all capital improvements to parking lots and garages, while Ohio State must maintain the roads. The transition is expected to begin in late September and continue through the end of the year. Current OSU traffic and parking workers have the option to stay on with the university or work for the parking operator.