As the school year approaches, Hays USD 489 school board members discussed decreasing some fees and possibly adding a pay-to play fee at Monday’s work session.
In an effort to close the more than $1 million budget gap the district has been facing, board members voted in May to increase workbook/materials fees by $60, approved an activity fee increase of $50, a kindergarten fee of $150, and agreed to the the non-renewal of 16 teaching positions.
The fee increases, would provide nearly $195,000 in revenue for the district.
“To clear things up, when (administration) said (the fee increases) would not have an effect on the general fund, indirectly it does have an effect … but I can’t recommend hiring teachers back,” said Katt noting the fee increases were not intended to be permanent and were just approved for the 2014-15 school year.
Director of Curriculum Shanna Dinkel said the revenue from the fees could be used for any funds that are classroom-related such as supplies and textbooks.
Katt said hiring teacher aides for the larger elementary classes is also a possibility.
Board member Sarah Rankin said she is concerned because she believed the fee increases, combined with the now-failed local option budget increase, were initially intended to reduce classroom size in elementary classes.
The 1 percent LOB increase would have provided a steady $200,000 each year for the district, but was rejected by voters on June 27.
“If (hiring teachers back) is no longer what we are trying to fund, then is it reasonable (to still have the fee increases)? … I think not,” said Rankin.
Rankin said the feedback she has heard from the public is not focused on the kindergarten fee.
“It is the parents of multiple children looking at the fees times two,” she said.
Rankin suggested the board think about decreasing the activity fees to $25, the workbook/materials fee to $30, and adding a $25 dollar “pay-to-participate” fee.
Hays High School Principal Marty Straub expressed concern about the pay-to-participate fee and asked if the fee would be for students playing sports or for all activities such as band and choir.
“I think we would lose kids (participating in activities) because when you look at the fundraising they already do, those students who can’t afford it are already doing what they can do,” said Straub, noting it is already the responsibility of the parents/students to pay for many items such as cheerleading and choir uniforms.
The board agreed to continue discussion of the fees and placed it on the agenda for the July 21 board meeting.