Fee places crunch on schools

Criminal record check fee for adults volunteering in schools becoming costly

A fee that’s placing financial pressure on schools may have to be reversed.

Coun. Brian Quiring believes the City of Vernon made a mistake when it decided to start charging a $25 criminal record check fee for adults volunteering in schools.

“We were short-sighted in that decision and I am regretting making that decision,” he said.

“I’m not sure what the solution is but we need to revisit the matter.”

The Vernon School District says the fee could cost up to $25,000 a year.

“Since the district was not informed of this change in policy, there are no provisions in the district’s budget to deal with this unexpected cost downloading,” said Bill Turanski, school board chairperson.

“The district is not faced with the prospect of paying for most or all of the fees relating to criminal record checks as it is not reasonable to expect volunteers to pay for the privilege of offering their services to our students and our schools.”

Record checks for all volunteers in the community have been free, but the city decided, as part of its budget, to request $25 to offset costs.

“Criminal record checks take a minimum of one hour and up to several days each depending on the results,” said Patti Bridal, the city’s corporate services manager.

“Costs can range from $50 to $500 each, and sometimes higher, depending on how long they take.”

Quiring admits the city was trying to reduce its processing costs but insists the move is creating challenges for organizations.

“It’s having an impact on people who volunteer.”

Beyond schools, Quiring says there is also a need to review criminal record checks for all volunteer activities in the community as volunteers provide a valuable service.

“There has to be something done. Maybe it looks like the first one is free,” he said.