After lengthy discussion at Monday’s meeting, Hays USD 489 Board of Education members voted 3-2 to make no changes to the increased enrollment fees.
Facing a more than $1 million budget gap, board members voted in May to increase workbook/materials fees by $60, approved an activity fee increase of $50, and added a kindergarten fee of $150 to be in place for one year.
Though all board members agreed the fees are high, the consensus was the budget needs to be balanced and USD 489 has already budgeted for the increased fees, which would generate nearly $195,000.
“I couldn’t agree more that our fees our too high,” Superintendent Dean Katt said, “but I think it is real late now to make a decision to reduce them. I would be more than happy to recommend we reduce them next year when we have the time to budget accordingly.”
Board members Marty Patterson, Josh Waddell and Sarah Rankin voted to accept Katt’s recommendation to make no changes to the increased fees. Board members Greg Schwartz and Lance Bickle voted no on the motion. Board President James Leiker and board member Danielle Lang were absent.
At last week’s work session meeting, Rankin suggested decreasing the activity fees to $25, and the workbook/materials fee to $30, and possibly adding a $25 dollar “pay-to-participate” fee.
“Our reality is the state base aid continues to fall every year for the last five years, expenses continue to go up across the board, ” Rankin said. “We attempted to remedy the situation ourselves through the LOB (local option budget increase) but that failed, so our only recourse is to raise fees, unfortunately.”
Rankin asked if the fees could be lowered.
Katt said if the fees were decreased, funds then would have to taken out of the capital outlay funds, noting the budget is already “very tight.”
The LOB ballot issue to raise property taxes from 30 percent to 31 percent would have generated a yearly flow of $200,000 for the district, but was rejected by voters in July by a 2-to-1 margin.
The board had hoped with passage of the LOB, enough revenue would be generated to lower fees and bring back some of the teachers whose contracts were not renewed in May because of budget concerns
Waddell said the fees should remain this year and be revisited next year.
“I see more benefits with staying with the fees this year, get the budget balanced, set the tone for next year and think about taking fees back down and set appropriately for next year,” he said.