Hillsborough school board amends activity participation fee policy

The Hillsborough Township Board of Education has adopted a change to include the winter guard, an indoor color guard a part of the marching band in the district’s activity participation fee policy.

The nine-member board approved the change by a vote of 8-1 at the Aug. 26 board of education meeting. Board member Jean Trujillo produced the sole dissenting vote.

“I just want to clarify to the public that the policy was approved on April 29; this is just a modification on some categories in relation to the marching band,” Trujillo said. “So as I voted ‘no’ in April, I am going to vote ‘no’ again.”

The fee policy itself would apply to athletic competition and co-curricular activities in the district, according to officials. The fee policy will start this school year.

“I fully understand and appreciate how upset and angry people are, and the tension that is out there in the community. It is important for the community to understand that New Jersey public school districts are under a 2% property tax cap,” Superintendent of Schools Jorden Schiff said. “That is for all public schools in New Jersey. We are a growing district, yet our state aid is being removed from us.”

Due to a reduction in state aid, the board of education established an activity participation fee program in April to use as a revenue source to cover costs for operating school sponsored activities.

“The state of New Jersey feels that because the wealth of this community is increasing at such a rate, that the state is providing too much aid to the Hillsborough Township Public Schools. That is the funding formula,” he said. “That is the issue. Right now, we are in our district and community trying to reconcile two things – the details behind this budget; and the bigger issues, of structurally is it feasible to run a district and maintain our quality when state aid is being removed and have a state cap? We have a lot of districts in the state also at an impasse.”

The anticipated revenue from the activity participation fees is $311,553 a year, according to district administrators.

According to the New Jersey Department of Education, the school district’s state aid will be reduced from $24.93 million in 2018-19 to $24.4 million in 2019-20 – a reduction of approximately $526,000.

For high school athletics, marching band, winter guard and cheerleading there will be an annual activity fee of $100. The fee will apply for each individual sport in which a student participates, according to officials.

High school clubs will have an annual $50 fee attached for students wanting to participate. While, middle school activities will have an annual fee of $40 for students to participate in sports, clubs and activities. For intermediate school activities, there would be a $25 fee to participate in athletics, clubs and activities.

The activity participation fee program is a part of an increase in fees in the areas of technology, co-curricular athletics and building use. Superintendent Schiff said in May that the increase in fees in these areas is anticipated to increase revenue by about $600,000.

During the Aug. 26 meeting, officials stated that after the budget audit is finished, the board will revisit the issue of the activity fee policy and decide whether or not to keep it in place.