Fee increase isn’t one-sided issue

DELANO, MN – There are two sides to every story. It may be a cliché, but it is true.

Sometimes, it is easy to get enthralled with one side of the story and pay less, if any, attention to the other side of the story.

Unfortunately, that is what happened with my story “2018-19 Tiger Activity Center fees increase on 4-3 vote” in the Aug. 31 edition.

I got so caught up with the fact that the fee increases were approved on a split vote, by the slimmest of margins, that I focused on those three votes and essentially ignored the four votes required for approval.

This approach did a disservice to the four members who voted “yea,” Delano Public Schools, Delano Community Education, my readers, and even the three board members who voted “nay.”

This first became apparent to me when a Facebook commenter asked what the fees were and what the cost would be after the increase.

In my hurry to write the story, I hadn’t even included these basic details, reinforcing another cliché: haste makes waste.

For reference, individual rates increased from $160 to $170, and family rates increased from $280 to $295.

Furthermore, I did not provide an explanation for the fee increase being proposed in the first place.

I had done so in my July 27 article about the work session when the fee increases were first mentioned and discussed.

During that meeting, Delano Community Education Director Diane Johnson said the fee increases were necessary to cover increased costs, including pay rates, change in staffing needs, and utility costs.

School board member Amy Johnson had asked if the district had received feedback about fees or accessibility to the TAC, and Diane Johnson said the district had not received much, if any, feedback. (Amy Johnson later told me she encourages people to share concerns with the proper parties and that she is disappointed that more people do not do so.)

School board member Carolyn Milano had asked about fees for students receiving free or reduced-price meals, and Diane Johnson had said she would look into the matter, which she did, resulting in free TAC access during the school year for students receiving free lunch and a decreased rate for access during the school year for students receiving reduced-price lunches.

Beyond those questions, the board members appeared to generally support the increase.

As I noted in my July 27 article, board member Rachel Depa had stated she would rather see a 5 percent increase now than a much larger increase later.

Following that discussion, I had no reason to believe the fee increase would not pass, and I certainly did not expect a 4-3 vote, with those three board members voting “nay.”

For the record, I understand why they voted “nay:” they had heard from their constituents concerns about access to the TAC. They did not want to raise fees after a year of inconsistent access to the TAC. It should be noted that fees were increased for the 2016-17 school year, but members were given a 13-month membership for the price of 12 months, and fees did not increase for the 2017-18 year.

With all that said, I didn’t plan to write a story about the Aug. 27 school board meeting because I had already covered the proposed fee increases in detail, and the rest of the agenda did not appear to be newsworthy to the general public.

So, when I learned my expectation was wrong, I focused on the surprise ending rather than the beginning of the story – the initial introduction and discussion – which was just as important.

While I usually take a great deal of pride in my work, I cannot do so with this specific article.

I apologize for not telling the whole in the end, and I vow to be more careful in all of my coverage moving forward.

Thank you for your readership.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *