Parents will be paying more for their kids' after-school activities in the Frisco Independent School District next year. The school board voted to approve its final budget Monday.
The district is battling a big budget shortfall because of two main reasons – voters did not approve a property tax increase (TRE), and the district lost millions in state funding.
District leaders, alongside parents, staff and community members, spent 10 months coming up with ways to balance the budget without sacrificing what many people move into the district for in the first place.
One of the most controversial changes for next year would be students paying a fee to play sports – $100 per student for middle schoolers and $200 per student for high schoolers.
The district's chief financial officer says they don't want to call it "pay to play," because scholarships will make sure anyone who wants to participate can. The fee would pay for costs like transportation, laundry and game officials.
"Instead of taking away student opportunity and programs, we're just asking to offset some of those costs," said Frisco ISD CFO Kimberly Pickens, adding that it is similar to an "operations fee" paid by students in fine arts, cheerleading, drill team, band, and orchestra for years.
Some other money-saving measures include paying for parking at the high school and a reduction in support staff like library aides.
There are a total of 59 recommendations that would save about $9.5 million. The district also decided not to open four new schools for the 2017-2018 school year, saving another $15 million.
Several parents spoke up at the board meeting to voice their displeasure with the scaled-back budget.
"I get the fact that the decisions have already been made, but at the end of the day, we are the taxpayers. We are the ones electing you, we are the ones paying the bills for this stuff," said one father. "Please correct this. Stop nickel-and-diming us. I can afford to send my kids to sporting programs, but I can't afford to keep giving you a blank checks. Something has got to stop."
For families like the Archambaults, who moved from Dallas to Frisco specifically for the school district, it is a small price to pay.
Rene Archambault said her 11-year-old daughter's schooling in the FISD is like a private school education at a public school cost.
"For us to not have the $15,000 or $20,000 price tag for a very similar education is remarkable," she said, adding that she hopes there are waivers or scholarships for students who may not be able to easily afford fees.
According to FISD, 10.5 percent of students are on free or reduced lunch programs.
"There has to be a solution for all families," Archambault said.
The end goal, she hopes, is to keep Frisco as a "destination district."
"I think those fees are going to pay for themselves time and time again, because we're going to be able to keep the district that we all know and love," she said.
Frisco ISD's annual budget, Pickens said, is about $472 million.
It is the fastest-growing district in Texas.