County Board Eyes Student Parking Fee

Rockingham Panel Wants Look At Where Money Goes

Posted: November 16, 2013

Turner Ashby juniors (left to right) Jose Martinez, Josh Pillichody, and Javier Arciniega walk to a car after classes Wednesday. The Rockingham County School Board is reviewing the $50 fee that division high school students pay for parking each year. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
HARRISONBURG — Changes to parking fees are under consideration by the Rockingham County School Board in response to concerns from students about the $50 expense.
 
The main concern of board members during their meeting Monday night seemed to be that students are in the dark about where the money goes.
 
“One thing that’s clear to me is that students who are paying these fees …  do not have a clear understanding of how their money’s being utilized,” Chairman Dan Breeden said. “At the absolute minimum, we need to define to folks what those monies are being used for.”
 
For about 20 years, parking fees at division high schools varied from school to school and year to year, but never exceeded $10. Funds collected paid for parking lot maintenance.
 
In the 2010-11 school year, the fee increased to $50 at each of the division’s high schools, $10 of which continues to go to parking lot repairs. The other $40 is used for divisionwide safety needs, Cheryl Mast, director of finance, told the board Monday night.
 
“There was not any specific catalyst,” Mast said Tuesday afternoon about raising the fee for safety needs. “We recognized that we needed some better [safety measures].”
 
In fiscal year 2011, $27,600 was collected and paid for safer entrances at high schools, and in fiscal year 2012, $30,680 worth of parking fees paid for safer elementary school entrances and security cameras.
 
For fiscal 2013, security cameras totaling $30,000 were installed at middle schools. That money was approved prior to the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors pledging $500,000 worth of support for safety upgrades in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
 
For the current fiscal year, the division is planning to use funds raised — about $33,000 the division estimates — for a required local match for a safety grant the division received from the state.
 
During this week’s meeting, Breeden and board member Bob May said they were open to lowering the fee and all board members agreed that more information should be given out to parents and students.
 
“I see the benefits of what [the] money has been used for,” said board member Lowell Fulk. “[But for] a high school students, $50 is a pretty big deal, so I’d be willing to consider it.”
 
By comparison, Augusta and Page counties also charge a $50 fee for students to park, Harrisonburg High School charges $25 and Shenandoah County Schools does not have a fee.
 
After consulting high school administrators, division staff is expected to present more information to the board at a future meeting. After that, the board would decide whether to take action to lower the fees.
 
Breeden said parking fees were a topic of interest for students in a high school class he went to speak with, and for a student who spoke during the public comment section of one of the board’s October meetings.
 
“The message I want to impart to these young folks is that we will listen,” he said.
 
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or esharrer@dnronline.com



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