ASCSU Groome Transportation bill overspends allocated amount

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Collegian | Chloe Leline

Piper Russell and Allie Seibel

The 52nd senate of the Associated Students of Colorado State University passed Bill 5207, “Groome Transportation Act,” on Nov. 30, 2022.

The bill, written by ASCSU President Rob Long and Deputy Director of International Affairs Akhil Penninti, provided students with transportation from CSU to the Denver International Airport by Groome Transportation. The bill requested $7,000 from the Senate Discretionary Fund as well as another $7,000 from the executive branch of ASCSU.

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However, an invoice from Groome Transportation shows ASCSU spent $25,040 on the bill. Other sources who worked on the bill, including Long, Penninti and Jessica Dyrdahl, assistant director of ASCSU, placed the total amount spent on the bill at around $40,000.

The bill read, “Groome (Transportation) has ensured us that there is a more refined verification process to ensure that student fees aren’t being misused.” The bill also explains that Penninti worked with Groome Transportation to ensure the program wouldn’t be abused by individuals using services multiple times or non-CSU students using the voucher code.

Dyrdahl explained that Groome Transportation provided ASCSU with a list of people who used the voucher code. ASCSU cabinet members, including Penninti, then used CSU’s student directory to verify if those using the code were students.

“We did request updates from Groome, and a large influx of the sign-ups occurred over a weekend when we were not able to receive the updates,” Dyrdahl said in an email to The Collegian. “This has prompted additional conversations and possible new partnerships for this resource to be available in the future, as we have learned how much it has directly benefited students.”

Despite the overspending, Dyrdahl wrote about the success of the program and said that it supported nearly 1,000 students.

“We had an exponential amount of students sign up for the program, which shows the success and need for the program to help provide a resource for students,” Dyrdahl said in the email.

Long and Penninti also spoke about the success and importance of the program despite the code being accessed and used by some non-CSU students due to prominence on social media.

“Overall, we did spend, but we were able to handle the extra,” Long said. “Money was allocated to the program through the executive branch. Honestly, I think that this program was very successful in the end. I do understand why people want to know why more money was spent on this program, but I don’t understand why people are mad that more students are getting safe transportation to and from Denver International Airport.

“I think this is a very successful program by ASCSU. I think the demand of it is showing that it’s beginning to outgrow ASCSU and should be something administration might be able to pick up in the future.” 

Long’s executive branch budget allowed for ASCSU to fill in the funding gaps from the amount that went over the bill’s allocated $14,000. 

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“I know that $26,000 is a lot of money, and I do think that is a lot of money, but our budget is a total of $1.7 million, so I don’t see this being too much of an impact,” Long said. “I mean, if anything, this shows that this is a successful program and (that) it’s outgrowing ASCSU.”

Penninti, who had never written a bill before, was directly responsible for monitoring the spending. He said it was a job that took hours out of his day every morning to cross-check reservations with the CSU student directory. Penninti said that the overspending jump occurred over a weekend and that the program would not cut off automatically once ASCSU decided to stop it. 

“We realized that we had like two options: either to probably cancel the rides, who must have booked over the weekend, or we could just let them pass and try to get additional funding from the senate later on and accommodate that for the additional cost that must have occurred,” Penninti said. “So that was what we had in mind, and we decided to go with the latter idea because we felt like at the end of the day, all the costs and the budget that was being allocated for this project and especially the funding was coming in from the student fees. And at the end of the day, it was for the good of the student body community.

“So I decided that it would be best if we would just let the rides stay as it is and we could then accommodate for the additional cost through the senate. It was a tricky decision for me because I felt like it was one of the biggest projects that have ever been worked on in ASCSU so far with the amount of funding that has been allocated for the project and with (the add-on) that has been overspent, but then at the end of the day, we decided to go with the decision that would affect the greater good.”

Penninti said he hopes to bring a version of the program back for summer 2023 to provide rides to campus for alumni or graduating students, but the details of that program were not confirmed yet. Long, however, said the program would not be returning after the overspending.

Both Penninti and Long emphasized that while CSU is looking at a proposed tuition increase for next year, it is ASCSU’s objective to not raise student fees as a result of the jump in tuition. They both also said that no organizations or clubs funded by ASCSU would see a decrease in funding as a result of the overspending.

Editors NoteThis story has been updated to correct a misspelling in Akhil Penninti’s name.

Reach Allie Seibel and Piper Russell at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @csucollegian