Minutes submitted by Isaac Kamola (Vice President for Communications).
Elections (Sara Kempner)
on Education Policy
There has been a problem with the Minnesota Department of Revenue sending letters to graduate students asking them to list the In-State Tuition Waiver and Tuition Benefits so that the 2003 and 2004 Property Tax Refund could be readjusted and back taxes collected. This can come to quite a substantial amount of money for those who filed 2003 and 2004 Property Tax Refunds, some times in the neighborhood of $500/year. The problem is that in the 2003 and 2004 tax booklet Tuition Waivers and Benefits were not specifically listed as items to include on Line 5 ("Non-Taxable Income"). The Department of Revenue has since been defined tuition waivers and benefits as “employer paid education” which is listed in the booklet but which could be easily interpreted as benefits paid to works as part of a compensation package.
This has ment that in 2003 and 2004 graduate students could have filed their Property Tax Refund in good faith (based on a justified interpretation of the tax booklet) and be charged after the fact based on a reinterpretation of this otherwise vague listing. For information on the Property Tax Refund see the Department of Revenue website. COGS needs to find out who has been contacted so we can take this issue to the State Legislature.
Sara Kempner has talked to a Student Legal Services lawyer who made the following observations. 1) The In-State waiver means that resident and non-residents, according to that latest interpretation, make different “incomes” while receiving the same services (ie University education), 2) It is unclear whether this change in policy is based on changes in state law or if this is an interpretation made by the tax commissioner. If it is the later, it unlikely that it can be applied retroactively, 3) Maybe part of the problem is the way the University frames its tuition policy meaning that getting them to reclassify tuition waivers and benefits might be a possible solution.
Dan Drake sent letters to different legislators. Phyllis Kahn, who represents the district in which the University is located, says that the legislature would have to change the law the this would be very difficult because it would open up lots of other issues.
There was considerable discussion over whether Tuition waivers and benefits should be counted as income. While no agreement was reached, it was agreed that a major issue is the retroactive “re-clarification” of the issue.
Sara Kempner said that she has contacted a lawyer at the Tax Center at the Law School who is looking into the issue and will get back to her in two weeks. Senator Dibble said he would look into this issue but needs to see that students are interested. Please email him.
We should also contact other leaders in the Senate Tax Committee including Larry Pogemiller (Chair), David Tomassoni (Vice Chair), and William Belanger. Also contact members of the House Tax Committee including Philip Krinkie (Chair), Dean Simpson (Vice Chair), and Ann Lenczewski (leading DFL). We should also contact those on the Higher Education Budge Committee including Sandy Pappas (Senate) and Bud Nornes (House).
COGS will also draft up a statement on the issue to be passed around to University administrators and legislators.
For now, it might be best not to fill out the 2005 Property Tax Refund form (due August 15, 2006) until the issue is settled. Especially since the 2005 booklet includes "nontaxable scholarships, fellowships, grants for education and qualified tuition reductions, including those from foreign sources" in the list of Line 5 items to be included in calculating the refund (the italicized section was added in the 2005 booklet).
Also, some letters have been sent out asking students if they have received a 2003 and 2004 Property Tax Refunds without claiming Tuition Waivers and Benefits in the past. If this is the case, filling out the Tax Refund paper work for 2005 might lead them to target students for previous years.
Finally, let us know if you or people in your department have been effected so we can begin to figure out how big of a problem this is.
Social Committee (Sara Kempner)
COGS is putting together a group to organize social events. Meghan Warren is heading that up so contact her if you have any ideas or want to help.
Orientation for New COGS Representatives
We are going to put together an orientation packet for new representative because there was been a concern that there is a lot of jargon about what COGS is and does which puts a lot of people off. This will be a way to make COGS more accessible to those who are not yet involved but want to be.
Housing Access and Affordability (Andy Warta and Shana Watters)
There has been a lot of work being done around making graduate student housing more accessible. Last year Common Wealth…, which was previously reserved for married students, was opened up to single graduate students. He have also finished a graduate student housing survey and have handed that information over to the O’Brian Committee. Are there any suggestions about what can be done to help with the housing issue? There were several suggestions:
Q: What is it that people want in graduate
student housing (so we can tell the landlords what will attract graduate
Affordable Housing Committee We’ll be meeting with local landlords in the coming months to tell them what they can do to attract graduate student renters.
University Dinning Services There was a large meeting about the use of cage free eggs in the dinning services. About 75 people showed up to discuss the issue. The committee voted 5-2 in favor of recommending the use of cage free eggs. The Residence Hall Association is currently looking into the issue because it is unsure whether this policy would affect all UDS dining services or only those outside the residence halls (Coffman Union, etc.).
Radio K (Chris Pappas): Radio K is currently having its power surge fund drive. Please consider giving money.
GAPSA (Abu Jalal and Karen Burr) GAPSA submitted its fees request at the end of January. We asked for $40,000 for food which was cut by $10,000. Now we will have to cut funding for our social events. There will be a series of public hearings and if you could attend that would be great. GAPSA is funded through graduate student fees and the $10,000 would amount to 30 cents per graduate students. Please come to the forums and make it clear that you are willing to tax yourself 30 cents in order to allow GAPSA to continue with its programs.
Conference on Public Engagement The Office for Public Engagement wants to have an opportunity to have a dialogue about the issue. The Conference will take place on Monday, February 20th, 2-4pm in the Mississippi Room, Coffman Union. The Office for Public Engagment will also put up a list on its website of how people can become civically engaged. Vic Bloomfield’s article will also be discussed at the forum.
DGS workshop The Graduate School is putting on a DGS workshops and want to talk with people who have experiences superior mentoring.
Dean of the Graduate School is offering prize money for proposals for finding ways to benefit graduate students.
Graduate Life Workshops
Council of Graduate Students | 405 Johnston Hall | 612.626.1612 | email@example.com