School fees high but necessary for district
SUMMIT COUNTY – With four children enrolled in Summit County schools, Gretchen Truesdell is forced to write a check for several hundred dollars in school fees each year.
“I think it’s a ridiculously high amount,” Truesdell said, adding that her sisters, teachers in upstate New York, were astounded when she told them of the fees. “I haven’t figured out how this is a public education (with) all these fees.”
But as school districts around the state have asked students and parents to pony up more money for fees in the face of current budget constraints, Summit school officials have made a concerted effort not to raise fees, and officials say the district’s fees are reasonable compared with other districts in the state.
“We didn’t feel like raising fees would be an appropriate measure due to our belief that we want to be as reasonable as possible with those fees,” said Dan Huenneke, director of business services for the district. “Even with budget constraints, we maintain that position and the board maintained that.”
There was a time when the district didn’t ask students and parents to pony up money for materials, sports or parking. Funding constraints in the late 1990s forced officials to implement school fees. The district restructured athletic fees about two years later, when the budget situation improved.
At the high school, students used to pay about $90 for the first sport, $70 for the second and $50 for the third. Now, high school students are charged a flat $70 per sport. For some, it reduced the total cost.
That’s cheap compared with Jefferson County’s new fees, which increased by $10 a sport this year. Jefferson County charges $110 for the first sport, $95 for the second, $80 for the third and $65 for the fourth.
Still, the fees add up quickly.
Megen Skulski is a senior at Summit High. With softball, basketball and parking, her fees add up to $240 a year. While her parents cover her athletic fees, Skulski pays the parking fees herself, and she’s not sure she’s getting her money’s worth.
“I think parking fees are a little up there,” she said. “I think with the money that they’re getting with parking they could do a lot better job.”
According to a district memo, the various fees – materials, parking, athletics and activity – are meant to offset the district’s costs in each area.
The parking fees are used for the maintenance and operation of the high school’s parking area and the overall safety of students, but Skulski said the parking lot typically is slick and dangerous in the winter.
Lisa Rappleye pays about $400 in fees for her daughter, Lindsay. That’s not counting the money she pays for her other two children.
“It’s outrageous compared with what we paid 10 years ago,” Rappleye said. “But I’m not sure what the alternatives are – or if there are any.”
According to Huenneke, it’s unlikely the fees will disappear any time soon.
“There’s not much indication at this time that there’s going to be any specific funding that would become available (to cover fees) due to the state budget situation,” he said. “That’s our dilemma; there is no supplemental funding from the state to replace fees. We provide an excellent sports program with 18 sports and a variety of activities at the middle school and the high school, and we put a priority on funding these activities for the best needs of the children of the district. The fees play an essential part in providing these programs.”
They may seem high, but the athletic fees cover less than 10 percent of the cost of the district’s athletic programs. The district collects about $60,000 in athletic fees – less than 10 percent of the $650,000 the district budgeted for programs this year.
Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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