Maximum fee to top out at $100 per sport in 2014-15
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
The increases will be the first since the fees were put into place for the 2012-13 school year, although a handful of activities will not see increases, as district officials seek to better balance the fees to a specific percentage of the actual cost of the activities. The four tier levels are increasing from $10/$25/$50/$75 to $25/$50/$75/$100, but some sports will drop a tier, meaning there won’t be an increase in cost.
Even with the increase, school officials say, it still represents a small percentage of the per-student cost of the activities, ranging from a low of 8.93% (football) to a high of 17.57% (soccer). This year’s fees range from a low of 4.97% (tennis) to 13.18% (soccer). Club fees, most of which are set at $10, will increase to $25.
The new numbers were discussed during Monday night’s Board of Education work session — and while the board previously had to approve the basic structure of the fees initially before the 2012-13 school year, it is now up to the administration to set those fees. Still numerous board members had strong opinions about the fees.
“I wish there were no fees,” member Eileen Bushelow said. “But then, I wish we didn’t have road tolls, either. But both are a reality.”
Member Gregg Lindner argued that parents are being hit hard — already expected to pay sports booster club fees and assessments and now fees to the school district and raising it amounts to a tax increase, but just for some of the community.
“It’s a user-fee tax for the parents,” he said.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, member Keith Knauss argued that he still felt the fees were too low and should be closer to 50% of the true per-user cost, but accepted that he is in the minority among his colleagues on that preference.
One other topic came up during discussions: while there are established caps — $200 per year per student — there are no caps on a family basis. Some members expressed concerns that large families will be unduly impacted and be forced to choose which children are able to participate in activities.
In other news, there was some discussion about the expected approval next week of a contract with SOS Group to allow for outsourcing of some custodial positions — no more than 10% of total custodial staff — as part of the ongoing pilot program to outsource some support personnel in an effort to reduce costs, largely those borne by the ever-increasing costs of employee pensions.
Residents spoke out in opposition to the move during the early public comment portion of the meeting, expressing concerns that contract workers would be less effective and noted that many students interact and form lasting relationships with these workers. Don Carlino of East Marlborough noted that as one of his son’s battled cancer — now in remission for the now college graduate — it was support staff and custodial staff who were among his strongest supporters, whether it be with a word of encouragement or just a friendly word when times were tough.
“Dollars are important,” Carlino said. “We all understand that. But it’s also important to understand the impact the support staff and custodians have on the students.”
It is estimated that the filling the position with SOS would save the district about $5,000 per year — and officials said it was likely that the current open daytime position would be filled from an existing night shift employee and that SOS would fill the night shift slot.
This would be just the fourth employee hired under the pilot program — slated at this point to end June 30, 2014. There seemed to be a question as to whether the program has gathered enough data as yet to offer insights about the cost-savings and impact on students and program. Superintendent of Schools John Sanville said that he may ask to extend the pilot program, to allow for gathering of more data.