Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Raising Fees?

At the last Board of Ed meeting, we began discussing raising fees. The Finance Committee worked on and presented proposals to raise both Activity Fees and Facilities Use Fees. We only started discussing the ideas -- nothing is ready for a vote yet. But it could be soon.

Here's a little background: The Student Activity Fee at the middle schools is $65 and at the high school is $75. These fees have remained unchanged since they were instituted by the Board in 1995. Facilities Use fees are charged to outside groups who use school facilities, for example the BF auditorium is used to present recitals or programs by Irine Fokine ballet school. (This is just one example.) There is no rental charge for groups directly affiliated with the schools, nor non-profit organizations that serve youth, nor Village government and other recreation activities sponsored by the Village. The fees charged to outside groups are fairly low (in my opinion). For example, the BF auditorium currently costs $400 to rent for 4 hours, and would cost $500 under the new schedule. The GW auditorium rent would go from $200 to $300, and the elementary school auditoriums would go from $150 to $200. There's a complete schedule of fees for other types of facilities, including cafeterias, classrooms and gyms. (Click here for the proposed policy revision for facilities use and fees, as discussed by the Board on February 2.) The existing fees have been in place since at least 2002 and possibly earlier.

OK, after all that background, here's what I'm wondering. On the one hand, it makes sense to raise fees to increase our revenue in this tight budget year. Our activity fees are relatively low compared to other local districts. I think Glen Ridge charges $100 per student. Since our activity fee hasn't been changed in 14 years, it does not seem unreasonable. On the other hand, is it wise for us to increase fees right when district families are struggling with job loss and the unstable economy? Is the smart solution to raise the fees, being fiscally responsible for the District and getting a little more revenue (because every little bit counts)? Or is the smart thing to give parents & community members a break and wait. I honestly don't know what I think. We'll be discussing this again, probably at the February 23 Board meeting. I'd love to hear some opinions on this...

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