Monday, Sep 01, 2014
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Schools may end activity fees District to survey principals to assess their relative worth

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BROOKSVILLE - The Hernando County School Board agreed Tuesday during a workshop to survey principals in the district to determine whether student activity fees should remain a part of this year's elementary, middle, and high school procedure handbooks.

Assistant Superintendent Ken Pritz said the nonmandatory fees were implemented under former superintendent Bryan Blavatt amid budget cuts to help fund school activities like field trips and guest speakers at school assemblies.

However, the discrepancy among schools that actually receive and collect the fees is vast, he said, ranging from $300 to $10,000 depending on the school.

"It almost became burdensome trying to get parents to pay it," Pritz said.

Almost 15,000 students didn't pay the $15 activity fee in 2012, which equates to a loss of slightly less than $222,900 for schools.

According to district data, 7,262 students, or 32.8 percent of those enrolled in Hernando County, paid a total of $108,928 in fees last year.

School Board Attorney Dennis Alfonso said by law a student's access to school events cannot be restricted based on that student's ability to pay, and that there has to be a mechanism in place to ensure accountability in spending when fees are received.

"That was part of the problem," Pritz said. "How do you use the money?"

School Board member Cynthia Moore said the fees were necessary, particularly in light of restrictions placed on how many fundraisers an elementary school can hold in a year.

"It's just needed," she said.

School Board Chairman Matt Foreman questioned the logic in eliminating school principals' ability to collect student activity fees when the fees are already nonmandatory.

"I don't see the benefit in revoking principals' ability to collect it," he said.

To gauge the usefulness of the fees, and the time and resources put forth by various schools in collecting them, School Board member Dianne Bonfield recommended having a survey drafted.

School Superintendent Lori Romano said she would have her staff draft the survey, and have it distributed to principals to give their opinion on the usefulness of the fees.

The board agreed to return to the item at a later meeting once the surveys were completed.

mreinig@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5271

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