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Student athletic fees may rise

February 06, 2002

Student athletic fees may rise



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


Parents who have children in Washington County public schools may have to pay heftier fees if their children are interested in playing sports next school year.

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The Washington County Board of Education is considering raising the athletic fee per sport by $5, from $40 to $45.

The fee increase would go into effect for the fall sports season, which begins Aug. 15.

Eugene Martin, supervisor of health education, physical education and athletics, said the increase is necessary to make up for annual deficits in the School Board's athletic transportation fund.

The transportation fund covers the expense of busing athletes to and from games. The School Board does not contribute money toward athletics, school officials said.

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"I think it's absolutely ridiculous that we don't have something in the budget for athletics," School Board member Paul Bailey said.

Some counties across Maryland do budget money for participation in sports, school officials said.

The school system's transportation fund has, over the last six years, racked up a $44,404 total shortfall and schools have been asked to find the money to cover it, Martin said.

He said he expects the deficit to be about $12,000 to $15,000 this school year.

A $5 increase to the athletic fee would bring in about $15,000.

Of the $40 that students currently are charged to participate, high schools keep $3 to put toward the school's security account which pays for police and security coverage at games and contests, Martin said.

The remaining $37 goes to the School Board's athletic transportation fund.

If fees are raised to $45, high schools would continue to receive $3, and $42 would go into the board's transportation fund.

Bailey said he plans to support the proposed increase "100 percent."

School Board member Mary Wilfong said she'd like to increase the fee to $46, so schools can keep $4 for security costs instead of $3.

Some questioned whether the increase would place a burden on families.

Martin said he didn't think so, because the number of students who play sports has gone up even though fees were raised over the last several years.

The school system had 3,090 athletes last year, compared to 2,902 two years ago, Martin said.

"We do not have youngsters not participating because of the fee," Martin said.

He said parents who have a hard time paying the fee can seek help from the schools' booster clubs, or the athletic departments may cover the costs.

"We've never turned anyone away, to my knowledge," Martin said.

School Board member J. Herbert Hardin said students may not feel comfortable asking anybody else to pay their fees. When he worked as a principal, he said, some students did not play sports because they didn't have the money, or coaches and administrators paid the fee.

"Some kids don't want to take other people's money," he said.

The School Board plans to make a final decision on whether to increase the fee in two weeks.

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