Pasco student fees proposed to rise

Payment is voluntary, not mandatory, for most of the charges.
The Pasco County School Board [Times photo | 2018]
The Pasco County School Board [Times photo | 2018]
Published June 12, 2019

Parking charges at Pasco County high schools are about to go up for students who drive to class.

So too, are the costs associated with many art, music and physical education courses in the schools. And, for the first time, district officials have proposed adding a $5 fee for students who enroll in Pasco eSchool online classes.

A committee of school and district leaders has recommended a variety of fee increases for 2019-20, in order to help cover the expenses attached to the programs. The district began an annual review of fees two years ago, after not having changed them for more than a decade.

The recommendations, which go to the School Board on Tuesday for consideration, are among the most numerous to be offered.

High school parking would rise from $30 a year to $40 under the plan. Middle school physical education course and locker rental fees would be doubled to $10. Elementary school general fees would rise to $10 from $8.

See the entire proposed list for more details.

District chief finance officer Olga Swinson said the goal is to help pay for the actual costs of items used in classes. For instance, she noted, the district does not charge students to rent musical instruments for band courses, yet it must still pay for instrument upkeep and repair.

The related fee would rise $5, to $15.

At the same time, Swinson noted, “all the fees are not mandatory. They’re voluntary.”

The public schools are supposed to be free, and some lawsuits have found that requiring fees violates that principle. Many people still choose to pay as a way to support the schools, though.

The collection rate has hovered in the 50 to 60 percent range, she said, although that has slowly improved as the district moved to an online payment option.

“We don’t get 100 percent collection,” Swinson said, “and we never will.”

Athletic participation charges are required.

Swinson suggested the hike in parking charges isn’t overwhelming, noting the annual cost is around the same amount that many venues charge for a single day. The eSchool fee helps direct money toward that school that is had not been receiving when students paid general fees only to their primary campus, she further explained.

The School Board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday. This item is on its consent agenda.