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School board reduces parking fees

By Rebecca Rider
rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Students registering for parking passes next year will get a little breathing room after the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education voted Monday to reduce parking fees.

The compromise came after several months of discussion about whether the current $50 fees should be reduced or done away with entirely.

Until Monday, 30 percent of fees went to the district and were saved for parking-lot maintenance. The other 70 percent stayed with the school, and has been used by various high schools in school beautification or to purchase needed items. High school principals spoke up at a previous meeting to say that the parking fee represents the only discretionary money schools receive — all other funds are earmarked for instructional purposes.

Much of the board’s discussion for the past several months has focused on how to preserve each high school’s discretionary money should the fees be done away with entirely.

Board member Travis Allen, who has advocated for getting rid of the fees, said Monday he has no problem with principals having discretionary money. But he was “taken aback” at the discrepancies between schools. In the 2015-16 school year, Carson collected approximately $21,550 in parking fees while North Rowan only collected $1,550. Salisbury High School’s total, $4,100, was also significantly lower.

Allen advocated for equitable amounts between the schools. However, board members Jean Kennedy and Dr. Richard Miller pointed out that the difference couldn’t just be chalked up to lower enrollment numbers at North Rowan and Salisbury. Students who drive to school at both campuses often use free, unregulated street parking instead of the school’s parking lot — which is not the case at the district’s other high schools.

Miller proposed that the board could reduce parking fees at the current meeting, and then during the budget process set a minimum amount for each high school’s discretionary fund and supplement to that amount what wasn’t amassed in parking fees.

Board member Susan Cox made a motion to decrease student parking fees to $35, with all funds remaining with the schools. Kennedy seconded.

During discussion, Allen again advocated for equitable funds for the schools. He proposed setting a $10,000 minimum. If schools weren’t receiving at least $10,000 from parking fees, the board would supplement funds until they were. To cover North Rowan and Salisbury for the year, the only two schools not making that minimum, would cost the board roughly $14,000 — an amount Allen called “minimal.”

“Just because you have half the students, doesn’t mean you don’t have the need,” he said.

Funds from parking fees are often used in school beautification, to purchase necessary items, send student leaders to conferences or to cover immediate or emergency needs in schools.

“Dropping the amount, $35, that’s kind of a compromise,” board member Chuck Hughes said.

In past meetings, Hughes was in favor of scrapping the fees completely. Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody, however, urged the board to move cautiously.

“I will warn you that elementary and middle school principals will want discretionary money as well,” she said.

It could open up a larger, and longer, conversation about discretionary funds and fundraisers across all school levels.

Board Chair Josh Wagner momentarily paused the meeting in order to allow public comment on the subject. Michael Julian, a recent candidate for the board’s eastern seat, spoke and suggested putting all the funding in a pot and splitting it equally between all the schools. But Kennedy objected.

“Equal is not fair,” she said when discussion resumed.

Some schools have more students, she said, and will need more money. The motion to reduce parking fees was approved unanimously. Board member Dean Hunter was absent from the meeting.

Miller then made a motion for the board to use its fund balance to supplement high schools until they reached a $10,000 minimum for the current school year. Allen seconded. Miller said the fees were an immediate need that had to be addressed, and the rest could be figured out when budget time rolled around.

The motion passed unanimously.

After the meeting, Allen said he thought the two decisions would help out both families and school principals in the long run.

“I thought we had a good compromise,” he said. “I thought it worked out well.”

The board will hold its next meeting Dec. 12 in the Wallace Educational Forum board room, 500 N. Main St., at 5 p.m. with public comment at 6 p.m.

In other business the board:

  • Received a donation of approximately 120 American flags for classrooms and five outdoor American flags from the WoodmenLife chapter in Landis.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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