Lexmond proposes reducing fees for struggling families

Lost revenue concerns some officials

Nov. 28, 2012

Shorewood - The Shorewood School District is considering the possibility of further reducing instructional fees for qualifying students, or redirecting the allocation of student fee revenues.

Superintendent Martin Lexmond on Tuesday presented the School Board with several options on how the district's management of student fees might be modified.

With the permission of district families, the district currently uses free or reduced price lunch status in consideration of a request to reduce or waive student fees.

Families must complete a "request for fee reduction" form to request their fees be reduced, according to a memo from Lexmond, with school principals responsible for approving or denying requests. Existing guidelines indicate that fees for students receiving reduced lunch are dropped to 50 percent, and fees for those with free lunch status are reduced to 25 percent of the total cost.

For families otherwise demonstrating financial hardship, fees may be reduced to either 50 percent or 25 percent, depending on the circumstances, or possibly to zero percent if an appeal is filed.

Under a modified fee structure, based on examination of how other school districts handle fee reduction requests, the district could reduce fees for students with free lunch status to zero and those with reduced lunch status to 50 percent, Lexmond said, in addition to possibly eliminating the need for those students to file an additional fee reduction request form.

Such a change would result in a loss of about $65,000 in student fee revenue.

"It's a significant amount of money, no doubt," Business Manager Mark Boehlke said. "It would have to be something we'd really have to figure into the budget next year."

The district collects around $300,000 annually in student fees, Boehlke said. He noted the need to consider that the district's free and reduced lunch population is increasing. The estimated reduction in student fees also does not take into account students who may not qualify for reduced fees but do not pay their fees, he added.

"I have to honestly say the loss of $65,000 concerns me," board member Colin Plese said.

Alternately, reduced fees could be kept at the existing level, with student fee funds being directed toward funding field trip costs or to computer and Internet access for families, Lexmond said.

"If we were going to do something about reducing it, or head down that road," Plese said, "I like the idea of kind of charging it what we do now and then using those funds to subsidize something else."

Particularly, Plese mentioned the opportunity the district could potentially have, through federal program "Connect2Compete," to offer Internet access to families for about $10 per month, and directing the funds to that.

Board member Ruth Treisman expressed a desire to give families, if interested or able, the option of contributing funds beyond their own student fees, which could also be allocated for field trip and other costs for students facing financial hardship.

"That could add up," Treisman said.

Additional suggestions were provided by others in attendance, including providing parents with a better breakdown, particularly at the elementary level, of what student fees go toward, and establishing a district protocol for how field trip costs are to be adjusted for students qualifying for reduced fees.

No action was taken by the board. Input provided during the discussion on Tuesday will be used in developing a recommendation to be brought back for future consideration and action.

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