Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Student activity fee collection lagging in Hernando County schools

BROOKSVILLE — Educators may soon struggle to fund everything from school field trips to awards banquets because of lagging activity fee collection across the Hernando County school system.

In its first year, Hernando County schools collected the required $15 activity fee from roughly 37 percent of students, raising doubts about the future viability of activities at some schools in a time of drastically diminished budgets.

Roughly 8,164 of the district's 21,910 students paid the fee, generating about $122,000, according to district officials.

"If we don't have the activity fees, I don't know how schools are going to sustain the club organizations," said superintendent Bryan Blavatt. "Those are not getting funded."

The School Board approved the fee after budget cuts in 2011 in an effort to defray the costs of supporting clubs, extracurricular activities and school functions. The money raised by the fee stays with the school where it was collected and is used for student activities.

District principals said it was a vitally important funding source.

"Without it, we don't do those programs," said Springstead High School principal Susan Duval.

The fee came at the same time as a new, separate athletic fee — something students had to pay or arrange to pay before participating in the sport. Unlike that fee, there's no penalty for failing to pay the $15 activity fee, and students are not denied participation in any school functions.

That's one of many factors district officials say is contributing to low compliance rates.

The others: Cash-strapped parents struggling in a tough economy, lack of awareness, lack of incentives and confusion over who has to pay the fee and what it covers.

Collection rates at district schools vary widely.

Hernando High School had the lowest compliance rate in the district, with just 3.1 percent — 41 students — paying the fee for a total of $615.

Chocachatti Elementary School had the highest compliance with nearly 90 percent of its 911 students paying the fee. The school raised $12,185, according to district records.

"Some were more aggressive, some were not," Blavatt said, noting that the district didn't get involved with enforcing collection efforts at individual schools.

Hernando High School has more than 50 percent of students on free and reduced-price lunch, and it struggled with coming up with incentives to get people to pay the fee, said principal Ken Pritz.

"It was really hard to figure out what we were going to connect to it to make people pay," he said. "We asked people to pay it, but we couldn't force people to pay it."

Pritz said there haven't yet been any cutbacks to activities, but in the future the school might be forced to curtail spending.

Next year, the school is going to try and make more of an effort to gather the fees, taking a page from Springstead High School, which raised just over $12,000 and had the highest compliance percentage among high schools.

Springstead offered students their choice of two of a range of incentives, including $5 off a prom ticket, $5 off a yearbook, $10 off parking pass and a dodgeball tournament, among others, said Duval.

"What we're trying to do is not just take the money from these kids, but give something in return," she said

At Chocachatti, principal Maria Rybka said they didn't need to offer incentives. Parents understood the school was collecting the money for a good reason, she said.

"I think that the parents can appreciate that the schools have needs that aren't met by the state," Rybka said.

Overall, high schools tended to have the lowest compliance rates with an average of 23 percent of the district's high school students paying the fee. Elementary schools had the highest rate at roughly 54 percent.

School Board member Matt Foreman takes issue with how the fee has been implemented.

"If your going to institute it, follow up on it. Simple as that," said Foreman. " If we're going to put something into place, we need to make sure we can implement it. It doesn't sound like we've effectively implemented that."

Foreman, the School Board's vice chairman, called the fees a "necessary evil."

"When times were good, we didn't have to do this," he said. "The finances of every government entity in Hernando County are not what they used to be."

Danny Valentine can be reached at or (352) 848-1432.

Student activity fee collection lagging in Hernando County schools 06/13/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 8:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida education news: Charter schools, traveling man, lunch prices and more


    #HB7069: Now that it's law, HB 7069 has a new target on its back: Will it be challenged in court? Broward County Democrat Sen. Gary Farmer says he's doing all he can "to …

    Thousands of children attend Florida charter schools, which are growing in number and now stand to receive capital projects local tax revenue.
  2. Forecast: Hot, humid and mostly dry conditions prevail for St. Pete Pride weekend


    The threat of any lingering effects from Tropical Storm Cindy have passed, leaving behind a relatively dry — but hot and humid — St. Pete Pride weekend.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast [WTSP]
  3. Florida Insiders: The state parties are dying; 'I heard someone long for the leadership of Jim Greer'


    For all the attention on Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel's bone headed gaffe this week, the diminished state of the once mighty Florida GOP today compared to even a few years ago is arguably more striking than the condition of the long-suffering Florida Democratic Party. A decade ago, no one would have …

    Florida Insider Poll
  4. Florida Democrats surging with grassroots enthusiasm, but 2018 reality is grim

    State Roundup

    After Donald Trump's election, so many people started showing up at monthly Pinellas County Democratic Party meetings, the group had to start forking out more money for a bigger room.

    Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses Florida Democrats at the Leadership Blue Gala on June 17 in Hollywood, Fla. (Photo by Carol Porter)
  5. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where cCondominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]