BRIDGEWATER, NJ - With budget discussions underway, and concerns rising about the funds available to cover facilities and other major expenditures, the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional Board of Education has opened discussion again on the possibility of instituting additional fees for participating in activities at the high school and middle school level.
In 2010, the board of education originally introduced the activity fees for sports and certain activities, with a $100 charge to participate in sports at the high school, and $25 flat fee for middle and high school clubs and activities for which the district pays stipends to advisors.
That $25 would only have to be paid once to participate in all clubs.
Discussion came before the board again recently as concerns about potential increases in the 2018-2019 budget were discussed.
In addition, board member Jeffrey Brookner mentioned that there is one club, the forensics team, for which the advisor does not receive a stipend, but puts in upwards of 16 hours on a weekend taking students to competitions.
“I think we need to re-look at the fees, and look at designating certain clubs as category A, for which there is a specific activity fee,” Brookner said.
Brookner said he is thinking that there should be a larger fee for organizations like robotics and Model UN, similar to what is paid to be on a sports team.
“Those are more similar to athletics, in that they travel and do more expensive activities,” he said. “We could do something along the lines of the $100 per sport for the major clubs, and then leave it at a $25 blanket fee for minor clubs."
Board member Ann Marie Mead said she is just reluctant to say that one club is more valuable than another.
“What I say is not valuable may be to another student,” she said. “I think we need to be concerned about that.”
“We did discuss increasing the fees, and we need to do something, but we are also talking about increasing taxes more than we have in a long time,” she added. “We have to be careful how we approach this.”
Board vice president Melanie Thiesse said it is not about deciding which clubs are more valued, but about which are more expensive.
Board members also expressed concerns that by charging higher fees for activities, or charges per activity, students would be less likely to join them.
Resident Howard Teichman, who was on the original committee that decided on the fees in 2010, said he would suggest charging $25 per activity for non-athletic activities, but cap it at $100 per student.
“They would have four or five activities that would be paid for each by students, and a student who is in 10 or 11 activities would not suffer as much,” he said. “That also to some extent does not take care of the problem that some cost more than others, but it lessens the blow if a student is involved in eight activities.”
The board is continuing to discuss options for activity fees, and the administration is preparing to talk to principals and others to get a better understanding about the clubs and their costs.