School Board Tables Question Of $50 Parking Charges

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A parent's inquiry into the $50 annual charge for parking permits at Payson High School resulted in a re-examination of the fees and what they pay for.

Parent Allison Murphy told the board at Monday's meeting that she considers the current charge exorbitant. She said she contacted several schools around Arizona and found fees ranging from $5 per year in Safford to $20 per year in Lakeside. Prescott does not require parking permits at all, Murphy said.

"We live in a rural area," she told the board. Students who work need their own transportation.

Murphy said a promised security guard, financed through the fees, never materialized. She requested the district either eliminate or significantly reduce the fees.

Payson High School Principal Roy Sandoval said security cameras have been purchased for the front parking lot. Though he wants to install cameras in the back parking lot, he said there's not enough money yet.

The cameras should cost $3,900, with another $9,800 for wiring and related work. An account now has $11,000.

Eventually, Sandoval said, he wants to hire a parking lot attendant.

The matter initially emerged after a parent asked the district what exactly constituted a hardship exemption from paying the fee. Superintendent Casey O'Brien said he consulted with the district's attorney who advised a more concrete definition.

In response to board member Charles Brown's question, PHS Vice Principal Tim Fruth said the fee was calculated after calling schools in the Valley and finding they charged $100 for parking fees.

"We felt that half of that was a good deal," Fruth told the board. He said students are allowed to pay in installments.

"We're not trying to soak them for every dollar," Sandoval said.

Fruth said the front parking lot cameras have caught vandals. "In the back is where we have the majority of theft and the keying of cars," he said.

Board member Don Engler suggested tabling the item until the district asks other districts of similar size what they charge for parking permits, until a written plan solidifies a way of punishing violators and ensuring students purchase the permits, and a written definition of what the money will finance. The board agreed.

Board member Rory Huff said the district needs a more concrete definition of hardship. "We can't just shoot from the hip saying you are or you aren't," he said.

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