Unionville set to standardize activity fees

Four-tiered system likely to be presented Tuesday night for middle, high school student sports, clubs

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

While football an other sports will be at the top of fee range — $75 — most middle school and high school activities will come with a fee.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — After months of focus groups, studies and analysis, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District appears ready to finalize plans for a more uniform set of participation fees for middle and high school students.

At the board meeting Tuesday night at Chadds Ford Elementary, a final presentation is expected to be made on the new fee structure — although the board may not need to formally approve it, as a board policy passed in 2003 allows for participation fees. A more formal approval will come during the budgeting process, when specific revenue numbers are locked into the budget.

The effort has been spearheaded by John Sanville, the district’s director of secondary education and board member Jeff Leiser. Both spoke a bit about the process and the results during last Monday night’s school board work session, as something of a preview to Tuesday’s presentation.

The administration is expected to present a four-tiered fee plan with levels of $75, $50, $25 and $10 and a single-year student cap of $200. Students from low-income families unable to pay the fees will have them covered. The fees will generate about 20% of the total cost of the activity — as an average. Estimates suggest the fees will raise about $50,000 yearly.

Although there have been fees for various sports and activities in recent years, the desire to make them more uniform and add a bit of revenue to the district came up during the 2010 budget process. At that time, the wide-ranging array of fees and booster dues made it virtually impossible to quickly impose a new structure that would be fair. While the effort was dropped in the short term — a boost in student parking fees at the high school helped close the budget gap — a more studied approach to the fee issue began in earnest in September.

“We’ve worked hard over the last four months, to get as much input as possible from the community,” Sanville said. “Our guiding principle was to determine what level of income could be generated without lowering participation.”

Although board members seemed generally in favor of the plan, there were some questions during the work session. Director Paul Price asked about using a flat percentage fee, rather than setting each fee. Sanville noted that because costs, as an example uniforms, change year-to-year, as does participation the numbers would be constantly changing, potentially making it confusing for parents, coaches and administrators. Board member Eileen Bushelow asked whether those activities that cost the district no money could be excluded from the fee structure.

Leiser noted that, as compared with Unionville Recreation Association, Southern Chester County Soccer Association and other local recreation leagues, the new fees still represent a bargain.

The lone local resident to comment, Bruce Yelton of Pocopson, argued against the levying of fees, arguing that activities are part of the educational process. He asked whether this would lead down a slippery slope where future students might be charged for Advanced Placement courses. He suggested that it would be fairer — and potentially more lucrative — to charge students getting college credits, something that potentially reduces college costs for families.

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