Freeport Area nixes idea of student activity fees
Freeport Area School Board shelved discussion of imposing fees of up to $75 for students participating in extracurricular activities.
The administration examined charging students $50 for each extracurricular activity, including sports, or $75 for participation in unlimited activities. The fees would apply primarily to the district’s more than 1,000 secondary school students.
“Just the cost of everything is killing all the parents,” said board member Melanie Bollinger, who said two of her three children are heavily involved in activities. “I know it’s going to generate money, but I think it’s going to affect kids in a way we don’t want it to.”
Superintendent Ian Magness said at a board meeting last week that the fees would generate less than $40,000 a year for the district, based on average participation rates.
That wouldn’t make of an impact on the district’s budget of more than $30 million, according to Magness and Business Manager Ryan Manzer.
“Administratively, this is not our recommendation moving forward,” Magness said of the would-be fees.
Magness and Manzer looked at the fees as a way to boost revenue without creating an additional burden on taxpayers as part of budget talks in June.
The school board tasked the administration with exploring such options after voting to increase property taxes by 3.1% as part of the 2019-2020 budget.
Other districts across Western Pennsylvania have taken similar measures or at least discussed doing so.
Among schools with such fees, Hempfield Area School District last year increased its fees for sports and band to $100 per student for one activity and another $75 for each additional sport or activity. The district also removed a $200 cap per family.
In Freeport, board members and administrators panned the idea of moving forward with activity fees.
Board member Christine Davies said the potential revenue raised wouldn’t make much of a difference financially for the district.
“I would rather see employees pay into their health care rather than have kids have to pay to play sports,” board member Rich Hill said.
Manzer said the district would need to consider whether to establish on a cap on fees for families with several children involved in multiple activities and decide which activities would be subject to the fees.
“National Honor Society, is that an activity?” he asked.
Magness said there likely would be an administrative burden connected to the fees because the district would have to rely on coaches or activity sponsors to collect the fees. He said many of them are volunteers and collecting fees is something they are not used to doing.
There could be expectations resulting from the fees that might impact the activity itself.
“If you are paying for a kid to play, you expect him to play,” board member John Haven said.
Board members agreed to shelve the discussion of participation fees for the time being.