RALEIGH, N.C. — More than two dozen students showed up at the Wake County Board of Education's meeting Tuesday to speak out against an increase in the cost of parking permits.
"We are asking that they find another way, because right now, the prices are ridiculously high and kids pay out of their pocket," said Catie King, a senior at Wake Forest-Rolesville High School.
The board voted to increase parking permit fees from $120 to $170 – the $50 increase, board members say is necessary to offset higher diesel costs and a nearly $36 million shortfall in requested funding from the county.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners approved a $19 million increase in funding to the county school district for the current fiscal year, but that was about $36 million less than 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."
But students argued during the school board's public comment period Tuesday that students who drive to campus should not carry all the burden. Some say an increase in parking fees will only increase other transportation costs.
"When students stop parking in the parking lot because of parking prices, then more people are riding the bus," Sanderson High senior Ashley Farwell said. "That's more gas, and less money goes to the school anyway."
School board Chairwoman Rosa Gill said before Tuesday's meeting that it would be tough to recoup costs without higher parking fees, but the board will listen carefully to student concerns if they have legitimate concerns.
Board members, however, did not take any action on the issue at its meeting, and it was not put on any agenda for future meetings.
The district last increased the fee from $100 to $120 in the 2000-01 school year. Then, the fee was still higher than nearby school districts.
The Durham Public Schools system 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.