Tempe Union officials balk at activity fee hike - East Valley Tribune: News

Tempe Union officials balk at activity fee hike

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Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2008 3:28 pm | Updated: 11:18 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A plan that would double the cost for students to play high school volleyball or to join an orchestra is leaving some board members in the Tempe Union High School District feeling uneasy.

The proposal, part of the 2008-09 budget, would increase student activity fees from a flat fee of $25 for all activities to $50.

But at a governing board study session Wednesday night, several board members spoke out against the fee hike, saying it would be a burden for low-income students.

Board member Robin Arredondo-Savage said she was against activity fees when the board last discussed them, and she still is. She also said that school activities like music and sports sometimes keep students from dropping out of high school.

The board last addressed the fee issue in 2003, when it voted to increase them from $10 to the current $25. It also placed a $75-per-student cap on the fees at that time.

At Wednesday's meeting, board president Mary Lou Taylor said she was "very upset" about the fees, although she said she would be more likely to consider them if the district would cut them back down if a budget override passes in November.

Board member Zita Johnson also voiced concerns.

"Principals work very hard to have funds available for students who simply can't pay for it," she said. "But my concern is there are too many students who are too proud to ask."

And while some families pay for their children's activity fees by making tax credit donations, Johnson also noted that option is not available for everyone.

"We have many families who can't take advantage of it, who don't have enough money they can take off the top to make tax credit donations," she said.

The fee proposal is part of a series of budget cuts proposed by Superintendent Steve Adolph to address a budget shortfall. District officials blame the tight budget on the fact that the community rejected two budget overrides in November, as well as on the district's declining enrollment - expected to be down roughly 600 students in the fall - which means less money from the state.

Other districts have recently taken a second look at their fees. The Kyrene Elementary School District raised its fees by $25 this year.

Still, other districts, like Chandler Unified and Tempe Elementary school districts, do not charge anything for participating in student activities.

The Mesa Unified School District does not charge for athletics, but does charge from $10 to $30 for activities such as band and choir.

The board will vote on the budget at a meeting May 12.

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