Schools athletic fee may rise again

June 03, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

Students wishing to play high school sports next year will have to shell out an extra $10 if the Washington County Board of Education decides today to raise the athletic fee to $55 for each sports season.

Eugene "Yogi" Martin, Washington County Public Schools supervisor of health education, physical education and athletics, said he expects about 3,200 students to pay to play school sports in the next school year. With the fee hike, he said, he expects their participation to raise an additional $32,000 for the school system.

The School Board last year raised the athletic fee by $5, from $40 to $45. The athletic fee of $10 was first charged for the 1995-1996 school year.


"Even though we've added the fee, the participation does continue to rise," he said.

The additional revenue generated from the fee hike would be used to make up for a transportation funding deficit next year and to maintain the boys and girls freshmen basketball programs for the next school year.

The cost of keeping the boys and girls freshmen basketball programs is $22,676, Martin said. He said the freshmen basketball teams would have to be cut unless the school system can make up the cost of maintaining them through an extra fee.

Martin said freshmen basketball is important because it gives students new to high school an opportunity to have playing time on the court. If they played on the junior varsity teams, which typically are composed of freshmen and sophomores, they might have to sit on the bench, reducing the likelihood they would return the following year.

Programs like basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse and volleyball charge admission fees large enough to help sustain those programs and help pay for sports, such as golf, that don't bring in money, he said.

Martin said he worries that other athletic programs would suffer if the school system lost freshmen basketball.

Over the past seven years, the athletic activity fee, which covers sports transportation costs, has fallen $69,305.36 short, for an average shortfall of $9,900.32 a year.

Martin said the $10,000 in fee money remaining after maintaining the athletic programs would be used to help the school system break even on transportation costs for next year.

Of the $45 that students currently are charged to participate in sports, high schools keep $3 to put toward the schools' security accounts, which pay for police and security coverage at games and contests, Martin said.

The remaining $42 goes to the School Board's athletic transportation fund.

If fees are raised to $55, high schools would continue to receive $3, and $52 would go into the School Board's transportation fund.

The fee is paid by athletes before they can play in a game, he said. The first games of the fall season are to be played Sept. 4, he said.

Practices for fall sports begin Aug. 15, and Martin said athletes pay the fee after practice starts.

Financial assistance is available for students who cannot afford to pay the fee, he said. A student would have to show documented need for local, state or federal financial assistance in order for the school system to help cover the cost of the fee, he said.

He said he doesn't think the school system has ever turned away students who wanted to play sports.

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