The news that Gloucester school officials, through the use of the city’s free cash windfall carryover from the last fiscal year, are scaling back both student athletic fees and bus transportation fees beginning as early as this spring should certainly be welcome relief for school parents.
But it’s also important for officials and parent alike to recognize that this represents only a temporary reprieve, and therefore just a first step toward providing services more in the fashion that Gloucester should. And while school and city officials both huddle over new budgets for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1, it’s essential that they look to stabilize these fees for the future through making budget choices that indeed put these and other needs of students, parents and taxpayers first, and ahead of some persomnel expenses and staffing levels that may well need to be evaluated for the city’s school system of the future.
The breaks in user fees — pretty much telegraphed by Mayor Carolyn Kirk earlier this year but just approved last week by the School Committee — will largely come through a $75,000 allocation from the city’s whopping $4.8 million free cash account left over from fiscal 2012 and certified by the state’s Department of Revenue last fall.
The cost cuts savings for families are significant, with fees for most activities being trimmed from $380 per student per sport down to $230, for a cut of 40 percent.
Parents of high school track and field and cross country participants will see their costs fall from $260 to $156 — which seems only fair since Gloucester’s track teams, especially, still have to wait one more season to even use their home track. And the fees for O’Maley Middle School sports other than hockey will fall from $100 to $60, with middle school hockey still holding at the new high school fee of $230.