If Safe Rides continues to operate under its current budget, the organization will be roughly $1,000 in debt by the end of the spring semester and therefore unable to continue running for the entire year.
And if the organization wanted to use the two new 12-passenger vans it obtained last spring — and Lindsay Luhn, a senior and the director of Safe Rides, said it wants to — the debt would more than double to $2,500.
At the SGA Open Forum meeting Oct. 29, dozens pitched ideas and shared thoughts on how to improve Elon University’s student life. But only Luhn and fellow Safe Rides executive board member and senior Ryan Kaufman asked for recommendations to solve the long-standing, student-run program’s budget issues.
“We’ve recently calculated our budget for Safe Rides, and the way things have been running, we’ve been finding that we will not have enough funds to run for the entire [academic] year,” Luhn said to the open forum participants.
Safe Ride’s budget for the 2015-16 year is $13,000, with $11,000 allocated to gas and vehicle repairs, according to Luhn. The service has spent just $2,769 of the $11,000 so far, but the dangers of driving during the winter months, which often creates a need for more repairs, can increase spending quickly.
The issue of Safe Rides’ funding has persisted throughout the years as the campus and student body have increased in size, according to senior Avery Steadman, SGA’s president. The Safe Rides members didn’t ask for a special allocation from SGA, instead opting for suggestions from the forum participants on how to remain below budget through fundraisers and other activities. For now, the focus remains on the present for Safe Rides members.
“We definitely do not have enough [funding] at this point,” said Josh Fritz, a junior and Safe Rides captain. “That’s it. It always comes down to the money.”
Budgeting an Elon staple
Safe Rides has been active since 1992 with the goal of preventing students from driving under the influence. It provides transportation to students within one mile of campus from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursdays and extends those hours to 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Its drivers, navigators and dispatchers are student volunteers.
The service is popular as always — in September, Safe Rides transported 2,378 students, according to an E-Net article. But Kaufman said if Safe Rides doesn’t receive the necessary funding, the free service would have to be cut one to two months before spring semester ends.
“If we don’t have enough money, we can’t run, because we need enough money to buy gas,” Luhn added.
The budget issue began last spring with the addition of the new vans. After the open forum, Luhn said with the total number of vans rising to seven, gas costs increased. The vans were added after Safe Rides worked with SGA on the 2015-16 budget, and it was difficult to project costs since the vans were new to the program.
“It was the first time Safe Rides acquired two new 12-passenger vans,” Kaufman said. “There was no way to talk with SGA as to how much gas money we actually needed at the time. But we’re trying to work that out with them now.”
Steadman said although SGA funding is provided for Safe Rides, the service has had trouble staying under budget. She said she is optimistic about its future, though.
“I feel like a lot of people would donate to a service like Safe Rides,” Steadman said. “Students here are attached to it and understand its importance.”
Fundraiser opportunities and openings
Since fundraising seems like Safe Rides’ best option to continue running through the academic year, the service has made an opening for a fundraising coordinator position.
“We’ll be working on adding fundraising into the way that we operate,” Luhn said. “We’re going to hold profit shares this semester, and we’re going to hold an event in the spring and try to get some fundraising and reach out to people.”
Luhn and Kaufman both said a major point of emphasis for Safe Rides is to raise awareness of the program in general. Keeping the service active for the entire academic year would help students avoid unnecessary risks, according to Luhn.
“We don’t want any of our friends or any of our peers to have an issue with drunk driving on campus,” she said.
Other Safe Rides positions are open for application besides fundraising coordinator, including head captain, treasurer and group volunteer coordinator.