Supt. Randy Weseman has some good news for parents of students in the Lawrence school district who feel burdened by the hodgepodge of school fees they have to pay each August.
"I'm actually interested myself in looking at a multiyear process that would actually eliminate, if not all of them, then pretty close to all the fees," Weseman said.
He wants to do it without eliminating any of the programs that the fees now fund, ranging from riding the bus to playing sports.
Weseman will bring up a plan at Monday night's school board meeting to roll the $1 million-plus raised by fees into the district's regular budget.
The meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the district service center, 110 McDonald Drive.
"We have an obligation to this community to try to look at ways to try to reduce the kind of money that parents have to come up with in August every year," he said. "It's a hardship for families."
Parents have met with the school board several times to discuss the high fees.
"I'm looking at a major reduction in our pay-to-ride busing policy," Weseman said. "Right now, if you have three to four kids, you could be paying pretty close to $1,000."
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He said he was interested in changing the bus fees, about $300 a year now, so that parents might pay the full fee for the first rider, a reduced amount for the second rider and no fee for other riders in the family.
"I'm looking at almost all fees, aside from this pay-to-ride deal, and for that I'm looking at a significant reduction," he said.
He said his plan also would eliminate the "pay-to-play" sports fee, which costs $25 at the junior high level and $50 for high school sports.
His plan won't cut everything. Students would still have to pay for their yearbooks.
"I'm looking at an elimination or a reduction of all these little incidental fees that exist from K to 12," he said.
Weseman said about 30 percent of the district's families qualified for free or reduced lunches and had their fees waived.
Another 20 percent of parents default on their fees - they just don't pay, Weseman said.
"There's really nothing you can do about that," he said. "The law says you can't hold them out of school until they pay fees. Because the reality is, you're supposed to get a free public education."
That leaves about 50 percent of parents who pay all or most of the fees, he said.
The district is supposed to be collecting close to $2.4 million, he said, but it actually is collecting only about $1.3 million.
He's going to suggest a four-year plan to reduce that $1.3 million to zero.
The board might have to come up with about $250,000 next year to get the rollback plan moving, he said.
"We owe this community this. I believe it's a responsible thing to do to look at ways to reduce fees that we charge to people who are out there paying taxes anyway," he said.