After a lengthy discussion Monday, the USD 489 Board of Education passed three fee increases and reduced bus routes — moves expected to add approximately $308,000 to $312,000 into the district’s strapped budget.
The district, which already has made the procedural moves necessary to cut staff next year, is facing more than a $1 million budget shortfall in 2014-15.
The board voted to increase the activity fee at Hays Middle School and Hays High School $50, which would be “a one-time fee, per student,” according to board President Greg Schwartz.
The board voted the fee would be imposed for one the 2014-15 school year only, with additional action needed to make the increase applicable into the future.
The fee increase means HMS students will be charged $62 per year, compared to the current $12 fee, and HHS school students will pay $66 per year compared to the current $16 activity fee.
The school board also passed a workbook/materials fee increase of $60 and added a $150 kindergarten fee.
The kindergarten fee previously proposed at $400 garnered the most debate among school board members with Schwartz, James Leiker and Marty Patterson voting against all proposed fee increases to kindergarten.
Schwartz said he was thought it was wrong to “single out one grade and one that is the most important.”
“Kindergarten is very important,” said board member James Leiker, noting first-grade teachers “notice a difference” when comparing students who attended kindergarten to those who did not regarding readiness to learn and increased social skills.
Commissioners also voted to only bus rural students and and those who live more than 2.5 miles from the attending school.
Commissioners agreed the financial situation and the fee increases could changed if the Local Option Budget election to increase the LOB from 30 percent to 31 percent passes in June, the district’s financial situation would changed and the fees could be decreased.
“When you look at all the fees initiated here, I look at that and, in the back of my head, I think this is supposed to be a public education” said Leiker said. “I don’t like the fees. We need to look harder at decreasing (the fees) before Aug. 1.”