Request to reduce high-school parking fee to be discussed by Mehlville school board

Oakville High student asks school board to reduce fee


A request to reduce the Mehlville School District’s $225 high-school parking fee will be considered next month by the Board of Education.

After hearing an Oakville Senior High School student’s request to reduce the high-school parking fee, board members agreed last week to discuss the issue at their Thursday, June 28, meeting. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the John Cary Early Childhood Center, 3155 Koch Road.

The board voted in May 2006 to increase the high-school parking fee to $225 from $50. The $225 fee was projected to generate $130,500 in revenue.

Voting to increase the parking fee were board members Ken Leach, Karl Frank Jr., Micheal Ocello and former board member Rita Diekemper. Opposed were board members Tom Diehl, Cindy Christopher and former board member Tom Correnti.

During a period for public comment last week, Oakville Senior High School student Sam Auer asked the Board of Education to reconsider the parking-fee increase. Auer, who will be a senior when school resumes in August, told the board May 17 that the $225 parking fee places an undue hardship on students.

“… I am here on behalf of Oakville and Mehlville high school students. For many years, Oakville and Mehlville students have held a rivalry that we are all aware of. Tonight, we set that aside and are here together to address the high cost of the district’s high school parking pass,” she said. “Through research on this subject, I have found reasons to question the high school parking fee.”

Noting that Mehlville administrators’ salaries have been compared to surrounding school districts, Auer said, “So please be consistent and compare parking fees to other districts. The district’s parking fee has gone up 450 percent since the 2005-2006 school year.”

While the parking pass for Mehlville and Oakville high schools costs $225, Lindbergh charges $60, Fox charges $45, Affton students pay $40 and Kirkwood charges $10 with the option of free starting parking.

Based on a 180-day school year, Mehlville School District high school students pay $1.25 per day to park, Auer said.

“This should be shared by all who park on any district lot. Administrators, teachers and staff do not pay any fee to park. This is a perk. In the past, students have also received free parking perks. This has also been eliminated this year. Any students with academic achievements and students participating in activities should receive some recognition,” she said.

“Many of the Oakville and Mehlville students have to pay the parking fee from their own pockets. With minimum wage at $6.50, it takes 38.67 hours to pay the $225 fee,” Auer said. “Many of us also pay for our own car, car insurance, gas and are also trying to save money for college.

“As students, we are advised to be involved in after-school activities at our high school. With the parking fee this high, it has made it impossible for some to participate in after-school activities. Many activities start immediately following dismissal and leave some students struggling to find (dependable) transportation,” she continued. “Transportation via cab or bus is provided to the transfer students that stay after and participate in activities. We are seeking equal opportunity to be able to participate.

“After reading the Oakville Call, I found that the Mehlville Board of Education has done the right thing and approved a 6-percent across-the-board salary increase for teachers. Also, an increase of certified staff up to 20 positions, re-establishing the three-tier bus system, increasing the maintenance budget to enhance staffing and equipment and reducing the cost of insurance premiums is anticipated. These changes point in the right direction.

“We are here to ask you to also please reconsider the high cost of the student parking pass. Please make it so that all students no matter what their (economic) background is are equal so that we may all have the same opportunity to stay after school and participate in school activities and have a ride home,” the Oakville High student said. “I am aware the district needs funds. I use the books, I use the facilities and I walk the halls of my school. Getting the money from the students is wrong. We need to find somewhere else to look.

“Thank you for allowing us to have a voice and again we do appreciate the job the board does for the Mehlville School District. Thank you,” she concluded.

Board members briefly discussed the issue later, agreeing to place the matter on the June 28 agenda.

Board Secretary Micheal Ocello complimented Auer on her comments.

“I thought you did an outstanding job. And prior to you walking in here I had no desire or even thought about changing this and you certainly have gotten me thinking about it,” he said.

During an interview, Ocello told the Call he was impressed with Auer’s comments and favors reducing the fee, perhaps by $100.

“From my perspective, I think she hit the nail on the head,” he said. “I mean when we made that choice it was clearly — and I said this last night — but it was clearly at a time when we were scrambling for everything trying to figure out how to at least make sure everybody got a free ride to school. Right now, I don’t think that all the ills in the district are fixed because I do think there’s a lot to do, but I certainly don’t feel as stressed on this budget conversation as I did last year.”

Noting the fee currently is $225, Ocello said, “… I think it would be reasonable to take a hundred dollars off of that, to go to half — something in that ballpark … I don’t think a hundred dollars to park is an unreasonable figure. That comes out to about 50 cents a day.”