Chuck Hughes, Board of Education, Salisbury, N.C.
♦ My first thought about student parking fees was, “Since driving to school is a privilege, not a right, I have no problem with parking fees.” After looking deeper into the issue, I began to question my wisdom.
Currently, parking fees are $50 per student driver, totaling about $67,530 in 2015-2016. Thirty percent of the fees went to the district and were actually used for pot-hole repair and parking lot striping. The remaining 70% went to principals to be used as discretionary funds for various needs such as parking permit hangers, office supplies, frames/photos for the school, banners for schools, facility equipment such as wet/dry shop vacuums/batteries/oil, school tractor servicing, furniture (not in classrooms), classroom US/NC flags, school signs, clock and battery replacement, graduation programs, grounds maintenance (fescue, straw, mulch, etc.), broken equipment, school beautification projects, and new radios. I do not object to funding these items using a principal discretionary fund. However, with the exception of 1:1 iPad fees that actually cover the loss or damage of the iPad, I do not believe we they should be funded by students or parents under the guise of a unrelated parking lot fee.
Little thought seems given to one major benefit student drivers bring to the school system. Since the maximum seating capacity for high school students is 48 per bus, providing transportation for 1350 additional high school students who currently provide their own transportation, would require enough extra buses to literally bankrupt our transportation system. The other reality is that our district’s 30% share of the fees is a pittance when it comes to parking lot upkeep while the 70% for the principal discretionary fund is being used for everything except parking lot upkeep.
As I said, my concern is not the items principals currently fund from the fees; it is “taxing” just one sector of the community; a sector that brings significant more to the school system than it takes from it (when it comes to parking). In fact, we could argue that students should be paid for driving to school since they free up about 1350 bus seats twice a school day.
There should be a discussion on discontinuing all parking lot fees starting next school year. “Fee” funding should be replaced by a budgeted principal discretionary fund divided between our 35 schools. Another option would be to provide funding from the general fund balance if reqired.
Eventually, we need to have a discussion about cheer leader and marching band fees as well.