Parking permit fees are going from $120 to $170 at area schools – the first increase in eight years – prompting complaints from some students and parents.
"My response is why is this costing $50 more?" parent Jon Durst said.
Durst said his daughter, a senior at Athens Drive High School, has to drive almost daily because of her after-school activities.
"Whether it's practice or an SAT study course in Raleigh, the bus isn't an option," he said.
School board members said they needed the extra revenue from higher parking fees to offset less-than-desired funding from the county and rising diesel fuel costs that won't be picked up by the state.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners approved a $19 million increase in funding to the county school district for the coming year, but that was about $36 million less than what the school board requested.
"If we didn't have a budget shortfall, we wouldn't have to do this," school board member Beverley Clark said. "When we looked at it, we realized the fee hadn't been raised in a very long time."
The board backed away from a decision three years ago to double the parking fee when students complained.
Durst said he feels the increase still goes too far.
"I still don't understand the $50. Maybe $25, maybe I could've swallowed that," he said.
The district last increased the fee from $100 to $120 in the 2000-01 school year. Even the old fee was much higher than nearby school districts.
Durham Public Schools charges $75 a year, while fees in Cumberland County range from $10 to $60. Franklin County offered students the best deal – as low as $2 a year – while fees at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools were $100 a year.
North Carolina State University also charges its commuting students less than Wake County schools, with a basic permit costing $99 a year.
Revenue from Wake County's school parking permits traditionally has been used for school security, but officials said the money generated by the fee increase will go into the district's general fund.
Clark said she hopes students who can carpool or ride the bus will do so.