High school and intermediate school parents will continue paying the when school starts in September.
The briefly discussed – and dismissed – ending the during Tuesday evening’s meeting. The fee was implemented at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year in response to Gov. Chris Christie’s to by in March 2010.
BOE members Mitch Slater and David Finn pressed the possibility of using part of the to eliminate the . The BOE decided Tuesday evening to use the to hire new personnel and upgrade the high school technology lab. Slater and Finn pressed using the funds for .
The BOE has twice defeated – on Tuesday and July 15 - Finn proposals for tax relief from the bonus aid. Finn’s Tuesday proposal was to use half the funds for tax relief. Chrisitie has pressed using the bonus aid for tax relief.
“My personal opinion is it is a parent tax,” Finn said.
Finn voted for the implementation of the when he voted to pass the in March 2010. He also voted in favor of the activity fee when to implement the fee in the summer of 2010.
“I think it is something is not fair,” Finn said Tuesday evening. “At what point do we take it away.”
Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan said the activity fee was well implemented and stressed that no student was prohibited from participating in student activities if they could not pay the fee. The includes a $125 per year fee for students who participate in at least one athletic or theater program and a $60 a year fee for students who participate in other activities.
Students who cannot pay can seek waivers from school officials, which were easily granted this year. In addition, Dolan has noted in the past that residents have donated additional funds to offset activity fees for those in financial need.
“I think it went well this year,” she said. “When someone could not pay we did not keep a child out.”
The activity fee was implemented after the BOE proposed cutting eighth grade athletics and intermediate school musicals as part of March 2010 budget cuts following Christie’s aid cut. Parents asked the BOE to implement the fee to keep the activities in place. In prior budget years, the BOE had cut stipends for clubs at the high school and intermediate school levels.
Dolan noted this is not the first student activity fee in Westfield history. She said WHS students were paying such a fee in the 1960s as well.
“I don’t think it is the first thing to go,” Dolan said. “I think tax relief for everyone is first.”
Interim BOE Business Administrator Vincent Yaniro said that since the activity fee is considered extra revenue, a cut in the fee would reduce the total level for the two-percent tax cap that the state has imposed. He said this could reduce the amount that the BOE could raise taxes by annually.
Slater said that he would like to see the fee reviewed again in the future.
“I am unsure that we are doing anything for the stakeholders,” Slater said of the board’s decisions on the bonus aid.