On the eve of the Special T/E School Board meeting, there is much discussion on the $8.8 million deficit for the district’s 2011-12 school year and its challenge. Over the last couple of weeks, I do not recall much discussion about the possibility of adding an activities fee to the 2011-12 budget. If you recall, the T/E School Board passed the 2010-11 school year budget without the inclusion of an activity fee. The estimated $80K in activity fee revenue was removed before the passage of the final budget. The consensus at the time was there was not enough time to look at the details required for such an assessment. However, it was thought that some form of an activity fee should be discussed for inclusion in the 2011-12 budget.
Every year, students of all ages opt for extra-curricular activities. The activity may not be high-profile football or some other “major” high school sports. The involvement may be in the performing arts or any variety of positive clubs or organizations that contribute to making school kids better citizens. Depending on the activity, the kids and their parents may spend a lot of personal money on extra-curricular expenses (sports workout clothing, voice or instrumental music lessons, club-related materials, etc.). In addition, along with time spent on their studies, these students spend inordinate amounts of time practicing to become better performers or working for the good of the club. It’s also not uncommon for them to devote many hours of added time with fund-raisers to defray organizational expenses. Parents are not to be spared, either. Any parent of an “involved kid” at school will tell you about driving kids to and from practice, helping with fundraisers, etc. So how do we feel about imposing an activity fee on the T/E students and their families? Do you think that an activity fee will impact participation?
Checking other school districts, Lower Merion, Coatesville, Phoenixville, Owen J. Roberts and Kennett school districts currently have no additional activity fees. (I was not able to verify that Radnor School District imposes an activity fee – maybe a reader knows the answer.) Great Valley and West Chester school districts do not currently have an activity fee but are considering such a fee for the 2011-12 school year. The Downingtown school district charges their activity fee at a flat rate of $25 per sport.
Unionville-Chadds Ford School District currently has an activity fee but is considering an increase for next year’s budget. Their suggested approach is a creative four level-tiered schedule – $10, $25, $50 and $75 depending on the type of sports and student activity. The fees will cover many kinds of activities from math and academic clubs to participation on sports teams, like football and basketball. With the increase, the activity fees will generate an annual income of $133.00. The calculation of fees was based on total cost of the activity, an amount not to exceed 20% of the total cost. Using football fees as an example, the proposed increase is 200%, from a current $25 fee to $75; the increase would still be under the 20% of total cost.
If T/E adds an activities fee to the 2011-12 budget, how would the assessment be applied . . . per activity, per sports involvement? Would the charge be an annual assessment per student or per family? Will the assessment be a flat rate or a creative multi-tiered approach? Where does the T/E school board stand on the activity fee subject? I will be curious to see if the activity fee subject is discussed at tomorrow night’s special School Board meeting.