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Athletic fee increase OK'd

June 04, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education voted 6-0 Tuesday to raise the athletic fee to $55 for each sports season, a $10 increase over the current fee for playing high school sports.

School Board Member Roxanne R. Ober said the School Board doesn't like imposing additional fees on families, but said raising the fee will support endangered programs - freshman boys and girls basketball.

The cost of keeping the boys and girls freshmen basketball programs is $22,676, said Eugene "Yogi" Martin, Washington County Public Schools supervisor of health education, physical education and athletics.

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Martin said he expects about 3,200 students to pay to play school sports in the next school year. He said he expects the fee hike to bring in an additional $32,000 for the school system.

After the cost to maintain the freshman basketball program, the additional $10,000 will be used to bolster the transportation budget, he said.

Lauren Low, student member on the School Board, said she worries that the fee increase might be too much for a student who plays three sports a school year. The cost for that student would be $165.

Martin said financial assistance is available for students who cannot afford to pay the fee. 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.

Boyd Michael III, the school system's executive director of secondary education, said school principals in the past have worked to help students who could not pay the fee. For example, he said, students have worked at concession stands or helped at games as a way to pay the fee.

School Board member Russell Williams said he would like the School Board to consider setting a maximum amount that families would pay for their children to play sports.

Martin said the new fee is comparable to those in Frederick County, Md., which currently is $55, and Carroll County, Md., currently at $60.

The School Board last year raised the athletic fee by $5, from $40 to $45. The first athletic fee was charged for the 1995-96 school year and was $10.

Martin said the school system hasn't noticed a decrease in the number of student athletes as a result of the fees.

Of the $55 that students will be charged to participate in sports, high schools will keep $3 to put toward the schools' security accounts, which pay for police and security coverage at some games and contests, Martin said.

The remaining $52 will go to the School Board's athletic 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.

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