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Paynesville Press - September 4, 2002

Proposed parking fee rescinded at PAHS

By Michael Jacobson

Students at Paynesville Area High School will not be charged for parking in the high school lot after all.

The school board, in a 4-2 vote, reversed its decision from last winter during the budget cut process, when it agreed to charge $50 per student for parking, which was estimated to raise $7,500 in 2002-03.

The district had encountered difficulties in implementing the parking fee: the cost of signage, who would enforce the parking fee, and the question of whether or not to tow violating vehicles.

Earlier this summer, the board had agreed to forgo the parking fee if the district could get enough bus waivers to eliminate another bus route, a savings of approximately $7,500 that would have offset the extra revenue the parking fee was supposed to raise. The district did get 88 waivers from families, covering 123 students, but even with these students waiving their rights to ride a bus, only one route was eliminated for the 2002-03 school year.

For now, the district has 14 bus routes, down from 15 a year ago, a reduction that was already counted on during the budget cut process.

At the school board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 27, school board member Deb Glenz asked how these waivers didn't help to eliminate another bus route.

Bus routes still need to cover 169 square miles, answered Marlene Theel, who works for Paynesville Motor and Transfer, the district's bus contractor. Of the waivers, Theel noted, 33 students live in town, 25 come from families that have siblings who still need bus transportation, and the rest were spread fairly evenly over the 14 routes.

In addition, with all-day everyday kindergarten the district has to transport all 75 kindergarten students in the morning and again at night, instead of only half and half, with an extra bus route at noon.

Theel said that another route could possibly be eliminated next year. "It has to be logical for routing purposes," added Phyllis Nielsen, owner of Paynesville Motor and Transfer.

Superintendent Howard Caldwell told the board that the district will continue to look for bus route reductions, even during the school year, and that the district has a mutual agreement with Nielsen to reduce a route if possible, with a corresponding reduction in the district's transportation contract.

Referring to the aborted parking charge, Glenz and board member Tami Stanger, who raised the issue before the board again, both said it was hard to explain to the public why an approved revenue source had not been implemented. Stanger said that some parents had told her they were ready to pay the fee at registration and were surprised when they didn't have to.

Despite their support for the charging for parking, both Glenz and Stanger admitted that it would be difficult to arrange since high school students had already registered for school.

Board member Maurice Dosdall made a motion not to charge for parking in 2002-03, which was supported by himself, Glenz, Gretchen O'Fallon, and Allen Schmidt. Stanger voted against the motion, along with Mark Dingmann.

(Board chairman Pat Flanders arrived late to the meeting and missed this vote.)

When the motion passed, rescinding the parking charge, Dingmann blamed administration for failing to implement the fee, saying that somehow administration should have gotten it done.

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