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Faced with declining occupancy, deteriorating facilities and rising security costs, the Department of Residential Living is heading towards a money crunch. "It's a problem," Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrisson said last night. "We're not at a crisis point, but we will be soon unless we begin to address [the funding issue]." Morrisson said Residential Living "needs an infusion of funds" to solve the problems of on-campus living that have pervaded for the past few years. The growing problems facing Residential Living are detailed in a report by Morrisson on long-term plans for the University's residential living programs, including a proposal to expand the University's current college house system. Morrisson said the college house proposal stemmed in part from a realization by University officials that, with major costs ahead, it was necessary to reassess the University's residential living goals. "Because we need to make those kinds of investments, we need to decide what direction we're moving in," she said. One of the main areas of rising costs is security. The residential budget, which pays for 28 percent of the University's Public Safety budget, has funded a large part of the University's increased campus security in recent years. Between fiscal years 1986 and 1993, Residential Living's share of non-residential security costs -- such as hiring new police officers -- increased by 106 percent, while total revenues for the department increased by just 41 percent, the report says. Increased security costs, along with bigger utility bills and declining occupancy, in turn reduced Residential Living's ability to fund building renovations. During the same seven-year period, according to the report, money to repair the residences decreased by 34 percent, while the amount of necessary repairs increased by 160 percent. The delay in renovations to make the buildings more attractive -- coupled with higher rent in dormitories -- resulted in an even greater decline in residence occupancy. This, in turn, decreased revenues still further, according to the report. "This pattern results in a downward spiral -- fewer students producing less revenue each year for facilities improvements," the reports says. Residential Living is financially self-sufficient, meaning that it can only spend however much -- or little -- it makes in rent payments from students each year. The University's residential living problems are not unique. According to the report, many of the University's "sister schools" -- particularly those with residential buildings at least 50 years old -- now face "massive rehabilitation costs and/or the need for new construction." The report says, for example, that Brown University proposed a $33 million building improvement plan in 1990, and that Cornell University recently implemented a $73 million renovation program.

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