The school district has nixed a plan to charge bus and parking fees for Sandwich students in the coming school year. That piece of good news for parents of Sandwich students was announced by Superintendent C. Richard Canfield during Wednesday’s school committee meeting.
Dr. Canfield told the committee that he had been informed by Sandwich Public Schools Business Manager Michelle J. Austin that the town will be receiving $6.5 million in Chapter 70 state school aid.
That new amount represents $132,400 more than the school expected to receive.
The additional money will now be used to eliminate the transportation fees that had been announced as part of the budget for the coming school year, Dr. Canfield said.
The transportation fees had been adopted earlier this year when the school committee was faced with closing a $300,000 budget gap. As they tried to balance next year’s budget, the school committee was confronted with either imposing fees or cutting staff or programs.
The majority of committee members expressed their dislike of fees, which former school committee chairman Shaun P. Cahill likened to another tax on families already over-burdened financially. However, the committee was even more opposed to reducing staff and programs offered to students.
At that point, the budget already called for cutting four full-time staff positions.
In March, the committee reluctantly agreed to impose a $100 bus fee for students in grades 7 through 12. Students who drove to the high school would have to pay a $100 fee for a parking sticker. The $100 fee would have covered both bus and parking, so if a student could not drive to school for some reason—a bad weather day, for instance—they would have the option of riding the bus.
Ms. Austin said that to arrive at a balanced budget, the goal had been to raise $140,000 through the transportation fee. She said that the entire $132,400 will be allocated to eliminate that fee, which will leave a shortfall of $7,600.
Dr. Canfield assured the committee that the school administration will be able to find a way to cover that $7,600.
To reach their balanced budget, the school committee had also increased activity fees by $20 per student, per year, for grades 7 through 12, and tapped into School Choice funds that traditionally would have been set aside for the 2014 school year.
Committee member Robert P. Catalini asked Dr. Canfield that he consider using some of the Chapter 70 funding to roll back the $20 increase in activity fees.
“I would just like to be fair and consistent across the board in terms of fees,” Mr. Catalini said.