Archive for Friday, May 31, 2002

Student fees mount

Increases will finance 5 percent pay raise for district employees

May 31, 2002


An unprecedented string of new student fees and fee increases will be required to finance a 5 percent raise in compensation for Lawrence public school employees.

"We're going to have an outcry when that bill comes in," Scott Morgan, school board vice president, said Thursday.

Likely fee changes for students listedHere are fee changes likely to be approved by the Lawrence school board to balance the budget in 2002-2003:Pay-to-participate Begin assessing a $50 fee for participation in each sport or activity regulated by Kansas State High School Activities Assn. Raises $93,000.Pay-to-ride Begin charging students living less than 2.5 miles from school $120 per semester to ride the bus. Students beyond 2.5 miles wouldn't pay. Raises $160,000.Technology Begin assessing a $10 fee to pay for supplies in computer labs. Raises $70,000.Instructional material Begin assessing a $15 fee to defray costs of weekly readers and workbooks. Raises $80,000.Textbook rental Increase to $72 from $42. Raises $210,000.Enrollment Boost to $50 from $15 the fee charged secondary students to support school organizations and activities. Raises $120,000.Field trips Increase to $15 from between $2 and $4 the fee for bus transportation. Raises $80,000.

The compensation increase was approved Wednesday by school board and teachers union negotiators. In interviews Thursday, school officials discussed what it would mean to students and their families.

To cover the tab, students next year would pay more or pay for the first time for enrollment, textbook rental, bus transportation, computer upkeep, field trips, instructional materials and to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports and pep club. In all, the board is prepared to adopt more than $800,000 in new fees.

Board member Austin Turney, who supports the employee compensation package, said he still was troubled by the idea of a 70 percent increase in the district's textbook rental fee.

"That's the one that is the hardest for me to swallow," Turney said.

The board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive, to vote on the 5 percent increase in salary and benefits for certified, classified and administrative staff.

Lawrence Education Assn., which represents 900 educators, negotiated the deal for certified teachers. The board will stick with tradition and approve identical increases for classified and administrative staff, Morgan said.

Mary Rodriguez, the district's director of human resources, said the compensation increase and the board's previous decision to set aside $1.1 million to meet rising fixed costs would hasten the district's move ahead on a two-phase, $4.7 million list of budget cuts and fee increases.

She said she expected the entire $2.86 million Phase I list to be adopted. That phase includes layoffs of about 60 educational staff in elementary and secondary schools.

To fully fund the spending blueprint, Rodriguez said, the board is likely to go $300,000 into its $1.83 million list of Phase II cuts and fees.

If her estimate is correct, the board would preserve some clerical, library, counseling and special education jobs previously targeted for elimination in Phase II. It also would allow the board to avoid dropping junior-high cheerleading and sophomore sports. And $70,000 earmarked for the WRAP student-intervention program also would be saved.

Turney said there was a slim chance the board could go deeper into its second-phase list to build a contingency fund in anticipation of state budget problems in 2002-2003.

"I don't think that has a great deal of support at this point," he said.

Morgan said it might be wise to at least draft a plan to handle a mid-year cut in state funding to public education. The state's $20 per-student increase in base aid to districts could vanish if state revenue continues to fall.

Another problem for the Lawrence district is a likely decline in enrollment, Turney said.

"If enrollment would come in less than estimated, we would have to go further," Turney said.

In 2001-2002, the district experienced its second consecutive year of dwindling enrollment. Enrollment fell 123 students. It dropped 142 students the previous year. Financial implications of another triple-digit slide could be substantial. For each student in Lawrence schools in September, the state is supposed to pay $3,890 to the district.

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