SCARBOROUGH – The price to park at Scarborough High School will be less than originally proposed, but students are vowing to continue their fight against all of the school’s participation and use fees.

The School Board considered charging students $100 a year to park on campus, but settled on $50 after a passionate outcry from students, who called the new fee unfair and unreasonable.

Board members say the added revenue is needed as they try to maintain programs while the district gets less money from state and federal sources.

The board voted 6-1 on Thursday to assess the $50 parking fee. Jacqueline Perry, the only board member to oppose the plan, had proposed an amendment to eliminate the fee.

The 2012-13 school budget includes $200,000 in revenue from students’ fees, $50,000 of which was anticipated from the $100 parking fee.

School officials now expect to collect $25,000 through parking fees.

Scarborough isn’t the only high school in southern Maine that charges students to park, although it is rare in Maine for students to pay more than a nominal fee, according to the Maine Principals’ Association.

Students in Cape Elizabeth and Kennebunk pay $50 a year, while students at Deering High School in Portland and Bonny Eagle High School in Standish pay $10 a year.

On Thursday, Scarborough High students gave the board about 500 signatures of students and taxpayers who oppose parking fees. About 70 people attended the meeting, but only a handful spoke.

Senior class President Jack Sullivan led the opposition, and said he will continue to fight to eliminate fees altogether. High school students now pay $100 for each sports season and $50 for activities.

Students will begin collecting signatures Friday in an attempt to put a proposal on November’s ballot to eliminate all athletic and activity fees in Scarborough schools. They must collect at least 2,000 signatures by mid-September to get the question on the ballot Nov. 6.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Sullivan said of the fees. “If this doesn’t stop now, there’s no telling what’s next.”

Scarborough schools began collecting participation fees for sports and activities in the early 2000s, said Superintendent George Entwistle. Students who cannot afford them can ask for confidential waivers, which will also be available for parking fees.

Merrick Madden, a three-sport athlete who drives to school every day, said the school system is unfairly relying on students to generate revenue.

“How important could that $50,000 revenue be if it’s already being cut in half?” he asked the board.

Other students and parents said the fee puts an unfair burden on families who already pay hundreds of dollars a year in participation fees.

Mike Gilbert, the father of four, said he has long questioned whether schools should charge fees when they are supposed to provide free public education.

“The referendum is the best barometer to see what the town thinks,” he said. “I don’t think (charging fees) is the will of the town.”

Only one resident spoke in favor of the parking fee.

“In my mind, this is a use fee,” said Paul Koziell. “It is no different than a toll, it is no different than a meter.”

Some speakers said the system saves money on bus transportation when students drive to school, but Entwistle said the buses can accommodate all students without additional cost. Routes would have to be altered if all high school students started taking the bus.

The majority of the board was not swayed by residents who argued that the parking fee is unreasonable.

Board member Aymie Hardesty said she understands how difficult it can be for families to come up with extra money, but said students would have to work only about four hours at minimum wage each semester to pay the fee.

“This is not an unreasonable amount,” said board member Kelly Murphy. “If you can buy a car, you can spend an extra $25 to park it.”

 

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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