FORT MILL -- High school and middle school athletes will have to pay a $50 fee next academic year to play on school teams.
But on a 3-2 vote, the Fort Mill school board this week rejected a similar $25 fee for band suggested by board member Patrick White. Now, White warns there may be fallout from the decision from parents of athletes asking why they have to pay a fee when band parents don't. White suggested the board was treating the band like a "sacred cow."
The athletics fee is intended to help the school district offset transportation costs for the sports programs, which will save enough money to hire two more teachers. Based on the number of students participating in athletics last year, the fee should raise approximately $85,000, said Leanne Lordo, the district's assistant superintendent.
"With the sports fee, we're making a judgment: Do we want to spend $85,000 on sports or teachers and let the parents pay a usage fee?" White said. "I also would like to see a partial fee to band parents. Maybe $25 on band; a modest, token amount."
Lordo estimated a $25 band fee could generate about $12,000.
But board members Dianne Dasher and Martha Kinard argued that unlike the athletic programs, students in band get class credit and are required to travel for their grade. A majority of the traveling is to and from football games.
According to Lordo, the middle and high school athletic programs account for 85 percent of the district's activities transportation costs. Band accounts for 15 percent, she said.
However, as White pointed out, if the athletics cost were broken down into fuel costs for each program, it would look more uniform across all the programs. At 15 percent, the transportation cost for the band programs eclipses at least some of the athletics programs, of which there are more than a dozen, he said.
White and board member Michael Johnson also pushed to add a $25 fee for students who live within a half-mile of their school and ride a bus. South Carolina does not require districts to provide bus service for students living that close to their school, but the district offers it.
"It's a safety issue," Kinard said. "You don't want those kids crossing (U.S.) 21 or Harris Road."
Kinard said most of the students who live within a half-mile of their school attend Riverview Elementary and many of them are from low-income families and qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.
"That $25 works out to like 14 cents a day," Johnson countered. "At some point, we've got to get revenue into the classroom. ... We've got to get our minds around the concept that if it's not necessary, we've got to eliminate it or charge a fee for it."
Board Chairwoman Jan Smiley sided with Dasher and Kinard, and voted against the band and bus fees. Board members Lewis Graham and Wyndie Havnaer were absent.