By Jamie Taylor
In addition to the vote on the human growth and development policy, the MAPS Board of Education will also revisit the technology fee that was to go into effect this school year.
Superintendent Dr. Lisa Snyder said the fee resulted from an improper read on what was an allowable fee.
“From some of my preliminary work, I think that what we have to take responsibility for – and I mean the collective ‘we,’ as a district, as a board and as a fiscal advisory committee – is that we didn’t dig deeply enough into what exactly you can charge for and what you cannot. We were very clear that you could charge student fees. We were very clear from case law, and this is from 1974,” Snyder said. “We were very clear in that you could charge a technology fee, but it can’t be for hardware or software, it needs to be more for student usage. We were thinking things like paper, which is a huge expense in the district; everything from a worksheet I hand you to a student printing from a printer. We were thinking we could charge for things like ink cartridges and toner for our printers.”
The district has since found out that any apparatus that is used across pupils cannot be charged for.
“So you could make the argument that ink cartridges are used across pupils and very hard to track,” she said.
As soon as it became clear that the fee might be improper, Snyder put a stop to it being collected until the board could either modify or rescind it.
“I’m recommending to the board on the eighth is they entertain the idea to rescind the fee for 2010-11 which leaves us with another budget reduction of $60,000 that we will have to do for this year’s budget,” she said. “I’m also going to ask them to send the whole topic of student fees back to this year’s fiscal advisory council to work through and grapple with.”
She said that the fiscal advisory counsel is going to want to know the community’s feedback on this and grapple with the whole issue of does the district even want to continue charging fees.
“I have a much higher understanding now from our legal council that we, as a district, should come up with a reasonable cost for things like consumables. So it’s fine to charge for a student workbook because that’s yours; you get to keep it, you get to write in it,” she said.
If the board rescinds the fee, everyone who has already paid – and there were not that many, will have their money refunded either with the actual check they wrote for the fee or by district check if they paid with cash or any other method.
“We only collected the fee on the first day of scheduling pick-up at the high school,” Snyder said. “By the end of that day, I then told everyone to put collecting the fee on hold until the board meeting on the eighth. So we have collected some checks and cash from folks. If they rescind the fee, we’ll refund everyone’s money by the end of that week,” she said.
Finding another $60,000 in reductions now that the school year has already started will be a challenge for the board. She said one option is to use some new federal education funds that just became available and can be used over the next two years to make up the difference.
“We have our staffing in place. I’ll have a recommendation on Sept. 27 to the board,” Snyder said. “Maybe it’s a custodial position or a support position, but we can save it through 10-11 through those federal funds that were just announced,” Snyder said.