Queenstown primary schools are grappling with unpaid school bills and are taking a tougher stance on chasing debt.
Tens of thousands of dollars are owed to the resort’s primary schools for optional activities, like sport and outdoor education programmes.
The revelation follows a Mountain Scene story two weeks ago about Wakatipu High enlisting debt collection agency Baycorp to chase outstanding bills – averaging $25,000 each year.
Queenstown Primary has also decided to use Baycorp, board of trustees chairman Noel Saxon says.
The amount owed varies each year, but “it runs into the tens of thousands”, Saxon says.
“It is significant enough to involve the debt collection agency.
“We run some neat outdoor education programmes and we want everyone to be involved in that.
“As much as we’ve tried to accommodate it by every means possible, this is our last resort.”
Rated a decile 10 school, which means the school receives the minimum amount of Government funding, Queenstown Primary relies on its Parent-Teacher Association to raise money to support its extra programmes, Saxon says.
“We don’t want to lose these programmes but we’ve got to be able to be sustainable at the same time.”
Like all schools in the Wakatipu, Queenstown Primary works with families who struggle to pay their accounts.
“But what we find is the debt accumulates over the years and we’re at the point this year where we can’t sustain that within our own reserves.”
Remarkables Primary principal Debbie Dickson says her school isn’t using Baycorp yet but is requiring parents to pay up-front for things like sports costs, camp fees and stationery, before the kids can receive the goods or enter a team.
“We’ve had a really positive response to that,” she says.
“It helps the school in the sense that we don’t have the overheads, so we can actually put the school operational grant into the students instead of using it for outstanding debt.
“The outstanding costs do surmount to a huge amount of money. You can’t keep carrying that as a school.”
St Joseph’s Primary principal Trisch Inder says the school uses an “internal system” to chase debt.
“It’s challenging because you want to offer opportunities but they cost money, and it costs more than you can afford from your operations grant.”