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Schools to hike athletic fees

June 10, 1997

By VANDANA SINHA

Staff Writer

The parents of Williamsport High School senior Jessica Rouse expect to pay $120 for their daughter to be involved in three sports this school year.

Rising transportation costs have prompted the Washington County Board of Education to increase by $10 the athletic fees charged high school students for each sport in which they participate. The increase in the fee per sport from $30 to $40 was included in the budget approved by the school board Tuesday night and goes into effect in August.

The school board unanimously supported the $10 raise at its work session Tuesday morning, said school board President B. Marie Byers.

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At the work session, "It was well-received ... and considered important for athletic participation," Byers said.

"What this does is cause more of a hardship for the athlete and the family," said Rouse's mother, Joni, of Williamsport. "We're the ones that get to pay for the extra fee for the child to be involved in school. Plus we have to pay to enter and watch our children play."

Joni Rouse said she, her husband Greg and their son pay entrance fees to watch every volleyball, basketball and softball game in which Jessica plays.

The family also pays for shoes, equipment, uniform accessories, summer camp, gas, playoff game entry fees and other costs that she considers expensive, even with the Rouse's double income, she said.

Busing student athletes to away games cost the county nearly $7,000 more than officials had projected last year, said Eugene Martin, supervisor of health education, physical education and athletics for the school board.

The 2,737 student athletes in the county paid more than $80,000 toward last year's transportation fees, which shot up to $100,211.29 because an additional 137 students participated in athletics, requiring additional buses, he said.

"We've really expanded in the past years," said Williamsport High School Principal James Hardin. "We're trying to pay for it on the same dollar as we used to, and we can't."

Transportation costs for athletics are expected to remain at about $100,000, Martin said.

A $10 hike in athletic fees will enable the county to "just about break even" next year, Martin said.

If the number of students participating in athletics remains steady, the athletic fee would raise $109,480. Of that amount, $8,211 would go to schools to help pay for sheriff's deputies who oversee night games, Martin said.

School booster clubs would fund those students who could not afford to pay the fees, Hardin said.

Three years ago, reduced funding for field trips in the school board's budget resulted in the imposition of a $10 athletic fee to pay for transportation. By fall 1996, the fee was increased by $20 when the school board pared its budget.

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