Finance Committee discusses activity fees
By Lavi Ben-Dor, Convergence Editor
At its monthly meeting on March 12, the Tredyffrin-Easttown school board’s Finance Committee discussed several topics relating to the 2012-13 budget. One of the major points of discussion was a proposed strategy to institute fees for participation in co-curricular classes, clubs, marching band, ‘Stoga Music productions and athletic teams.
School board vice president and Finance Committee chair Betsy Fadem said that the strategy could raise between $140,000 and $290,000 by charging middle school and high school students for the activities they participate in. The board discussed several options for enforcing it, including charging a one-time $50, $75 or $100 fee either per activity or in general. However, they noted that students who demonstrate financial hardship could apply for waiving the fees.
Several board members spoke in support of the idea but noted that it could be more successful if they began with a lower fee and then possibly increase it as necessary.
“We’re going to affect participation [in activities]. Are we really going to charge kids 50 dollars for these activities that take a lot of time and [through which] the kids are doing a service to the student body?” board member Pete Motel said. “If we’re going to do this thing, I agree with the idea of starting low. I know we’re breaking new ground here but I think we need to go slowly.”
Board member Anne Crowley emphasized the importance of ensuring the ability of families in the district to pay for the activities their chidren participated in.
“The question for me is, what will the families bear? We are trying to test how the community can integrate this into their family budget,” she said.
The committee discussed the possibility of exempting certain clubs such as service groups, since their work benefits the community, as well as examining the problems with charging possibly $100 for a club that costs the district significantly less than that per student.
“What troubles me is the ones with less than one hundred dollars [used per student],” committee member Kevin Buraks said.
The committee decided that they would look more into the idea and then discuss it at the general board meeting on April 23.
Also discussed during the meeting was the option of reexamining the parts of the Tredyffrin and Easttown townships that are exempt from paying property taxes (including religious institutions and non-profit organizations), which they decided to discuss further in April. The board could identify which still qualify for tax exemptions and which no longer do so, which could include the selling of an area of land to a for-profit company or the renting-out of part of a church’s property, making it taxable.
“I think there’s the opportunity that if we don’t kick over this stone, we may have something on the table,” Fadem said.
The committee next meets on April 9, and the whole board meets on March 19 for a budget workshop at Conestoga and March 26 for its monthly meeting.
Lavi Ben-Dor can be reached at email@example.com.