Going back to school this year at USD 489 might not cost as much as expected, as Hays USD 489 school board members on Monday discussed rethinking the fee increases enacted earlier this year.
To make up for a more than $1 million budget shortfall, the district had been facing the board voted in May to increase workbook/materials fees by $60, approved an activity fee increase of $50 dollars and a kindergarten fee of $150.
The board also agreed to the non-renewal of 16 teaching contracts and had said they hoped the fees and the passage of local option budget increase would be enough to bring back at least three teachers in “critical areas” to reduce classroom size in elementary classrooms.
The LOB increase, however, was soundly rejected by voters on June 27, failing by a 2-to-1 margin.
At Monday’s meeting, school board members discussed how the fees would be earmarked and distributed and how teachers could be brought back with just the one-year increase in fees.
According to Director of Finance Tracy Kaiser, the textbook/materials fee can only be used to buy new textbooks, leaving little left over to replace teachers.
However, funds from kindergarten fee could be used to rehire teachers, she said, as those funds are earmarked for the general fund.
“We were hoping the (LOB increase) would go through and that funding and the fees … were really going to help with hiring some teachers back,” board vice president Marty Patterson said after the meeting. “After we really look at it, (the fees) may not help that much on getting teachers back.
“If it doesn’t help get teachers back, there is no sense in charging (the fees) unless the administration can come up with a good reason why,” he added.
The board agreed to discuss the fee increases at Monday’s USD 489 board work session.