Hays High School’s drivers eduction has been operating at a profit in recent years, which could ease parents’ pocketbooks this year.

The recent 2017-18 financial audit showed the program is doing well, Superintendent John Thissen said at Monday night’s school board meeting.

“We have a very strong program. We can count on 200 students every summer,” Thissen said.

Reducing fees was a conversation he said he had with Bruce Rupp, drivers education coordinator.

“We had a discussion as far as anywhere from $30 to $50 off our fees, and feel comfortable that $50 being taken off the fees for drivers education is reasonable and without any kind of concern that we’ll be in trouble in the next couple of years,” Thissen said.

Fees are currently $250 for in-district students and $300 for out-of-district students.

The discussion came under new business, so no action was taken Monday. The next regular meeting is Jan. 28.

Rupp told the board he is comfortable with the idea of reducing fees.

“My balance is currently a little bit north of $30,000,” Rupp said. “If we drop $50, it’s going to cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,000 to $10,000.”

Last year, he paid for new brakes, which last about seven years, he said.

“Those are the most expensive items I have to buy,” he said.

New signs for the vehicles were also purchased last year. Insurance deductibles in case of an accident would be another large — and unexpected — expense, but Rupp said he believed that could be covered as well.

The cars for the program are donated by several local dealers, Rupp said. The district used to lease vehicles, which cost about $12,000 a year, he said.

Rupp noted this year’s eighth grade class at Hays Middle School is one of the largest in the district, so he anticipates a large enrollment for drivers ed this summer.

He also noted enrollment has increased in the USD 489 program after private driving schools in Salina and Wichita closed several years ago. Out-of-district enrollments number about 10 to 12 students per year, mostly from Victoria, he said.

“If you’re comfortable with dropping it, as much as the school fees are and the parents’ out-of-pocket for other things are very high, I feel like giving them a break and cutting it down to $200 would benefit them a lot and still let us make a profit that’s reasonable,” Rupp said.

Board member Lance Bickle asked Rupp about sustaining the program’s finances long-term.

“We’re not going to be talking at the end of three years now we’re losing money and we’ve got to go back to the fee?” Bickle said.

“No, I feel real comfortable with $50 right now. I feel like if we lose a couple thousand dollars for a few years, we’ll still have plenty of money,” Rupp said.

Board member Paul Adams said he would be more comfortable with a $25 decrease, however.

“That just has a better feel,” he said. “It gives us a little more room to maneuver.”

Thissen instructed Rupp to prepare financial projections with the fees dropped by $50 and by $25 and present them to the board at a future meeting.