Instead of adopting a pay-to-play fee for participation in sports, the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 board voted 5 to 1 to raise the school’s basic registration fee by $35. The registration fee for the 2010-11 school year will be $165. Last year it was $130.

School board President James Marciniak cast the only vote against the motion, saying that he preferred adopting a fee for those who play sports.

Marciniak argued that it violated the Illinois constitution as well as RB’s own policies to charge a fee to everyone for what is supposed to a free public education.

“I don’t think it’s fair to charge all families for the possibility that their children might participate in an extracurricular activity,” Marciniak said. “I don’t find the concept of pay-to-play unreasonable. It would be payment for services rendered.”

In May the RB administration had proposed charging a $25 fee to RB students participating in a sport and raising the basic registration fee by $10 to $140. Those two moves would have raised an additional $35,000 in new revenue.

The $35 increase in the registration fee, charged to all students, will instead raise an additional $42,000 in new revenue, a gain of about $7,000. Because of that additional revenue, a proposal to charge $5 surcharge on all field trips was scrapped.

The administration changed course after many parents suggested that an increase in the basic registration would be more fair and easier to administer than a pay-to-play scheme.

District 208 Interim Superintendent David Bonnette said that he feared that a pay-to-play plan would have discouraged some students from trying a sport or other extracurricular activity.

Bonnette said that the goal of the school would be that every student is involved in at least one activity or sport.

“We want our students to take full advantage of the opportunities that are available,” Bonnette said.

Board member and finance committee co-chairwoman MariAnn Leibrandt said that increasing the mandatory registration fee was a better way to encourage participation in extracurricular activities. She feared that a pay-to-play plan would discourage kids from joining teams or other extracurricular activities.

“We didn’t want to limit any student,” Leibrandt said. “We wanted to open it up to all students, and we found that this is a much more equitable way to open up all of those extracurriculars to students and let the whole student body take the impact.”

The school board also voted 5 to 1 to increase the fee for student parking permits by $25, setting the fee at $150 for the upcoming school year.

Leibrandt cast the only vote against raising the parking permit fee.

The parking fee increase is expected to generate at least $2,000 in new revenue.

The board also signaled its intention to raise the driver education fee by $25, up to $325. Before the board can take that vote it must hold a public hearing on the subject. That is expected to happen at the board’s next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Aug. 24.

Because the Illinois General Assembly must review the increase, the fee hike is not likely to take effect until the second semester of the 2010-11 school year.

Bonnette also stated at the June 22 meeting that the school board plans to seek approval of property tax hike referendum in April 2011 as RB seeks additional revenue to combat looming large budget deficits.

The community will have to decide what kind of school that it wants and can afford.

“This is a matter of local determination,” Bonnette said.