Due to legislative decisions, Sampson County parents may have to pay a little more if they want their children to receive driving lessons from the school system.
During a Tuesday work session for the Sampson County Board of Education, transportation director Herb Sanderson presented a request to increase fees for the program from $45 to $65.
“It’s something we don’t want to do, but again, it’s what the North Carolina General Assembly is pretty much forcing us to do,” he said.
In 2011, Sanderson came to the board and requested a $45 fee to supplement state funding.State funding at the time was reduced to $191 per student. But it takes more than $230 per student to educate the students through the program.
“We’ve been able to balance the budget with Driver’s Ed,” he said. “This year, we did use the $45 fee that we’ve been charging. We’ve been accumulating that money in anticipation of hard times.”
Along with other counties, Sampson is lacking in the purchasing of new cars.
“We can’t purchase new cars with the current budget we have right now,” Sanderson said.
But the news is getting worse for the school officials. The General Assembly voted to eliminate state funding for Driver’s Ed next school year.
Sanderson said they don’t know the future of driver’s education at this point. Legislators have allowed school systems to increase the fee to $65. Previously, an increase of $55 was allowed, but Sanderson said school officials did not want to put more burdens on parents and taxpayers.
“In these critical situations, next year we’re not going to have state funding,” he said. “That’s a proven point. Where’s that money going to come from? We don’t know right now.”
Prior to 1992, $275 was budget for each student. Now, that amount has been decreased to under $200.
There was a mention of parents having to pick up the bill. Private contractors are charging up to $400 per child. Sanderson said school officials are unsure if they’re going to charge that amount next school year.
“We’re going to have to sit down and crunch some numbers and figure out where the money is going to come from,” Sanderson said. “Who knows, the General Assembly may decide to change and hopefully find money elsewhere to support Driver’s Education.”
During his presentation, Sanderson said he would hate for the program to convert to online learning, with parents teaching their children.Sanderson said North Carolina and Michigan have always been looked upon as having premiere Driver Education programs.
Board member G.H. Wilson described it as “sticker shock.”
“Sixty-five dollars is not going to cover it, but we’re trying to build up a fund to help us for the unknown future,” Sanderson said.
The district is allotted money for students at age 14 1/2, but some parents wait until they turn 16 before signing them up for the driving program. By then the money for the student is already spent, Sanderson pointed out.
“We felt good about the budget, but a lot of that is because people have prolonged getting their license,” he said. “The economy has hurt all families. With the insurance increase of what it cost to drive, parents are waiting for children to get their driver’s license a little later.”
Board members are scheduled to make a decision at their upcoming meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25 in the Central Office Auditorium.