School board preparing to reduce Pay-to-Participate, other activity fees

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The Westerville City School District Board of Education yesterday authorized district officials to establish a new fee structure for students participating in athletics and other activities. Once approved, the measure would reduce extracurricular “Pay-to-Participate” fees, as well as phase in the suspension of fees for club activities and co-curricular activities in which students receive a grade.

High school athletes currently pay $240 per sport and middle school athletes pay $120 per sport. There is no reduction to fees for students playing multiple sports and there is no cap to the amount a family pays annually.

Under the proposed fee structure, families of high school student athletes would pay $150 for the first sport and $75 for the student’s second sport. At the middle school level, families would pay $75 for a student’s first sport and $50 for the student’s second sport. Students participating in three or more sports at either level would not incur additional fees.

Regarding families with multiple children playing multiple sports, athletic fees would be capped at $300 per year. A reduced fee structure also is being developed for students participating in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. Once approved, the revised athletic fees would take effect with winter sports during the present school year. Fees will not be reduced retroactively.

Club fees would continue to be collected for the remainder of the current school year, but those fees would be suspended beginning with the 2016-17 school year. There are 33 club activities operating at the secondary level this school year.

Fees for co-curricular activities such as marching band, orchestra, jazz band and choir, also would continue to be collected for the remainder of the current school year, but would be suspended beginning with the 2016-17 school year. Students participating in the theater program will pay a one-time $50 fee during the current school year, but this fee would be suspended beginning with the 2016-17 school year.

Board of Education Member Richard Bird noted that throughout the district’s history, the community has made a substantial capital investment in the infrastructure for sports, theater, band, and other student activities.

“We have built a district that is expected, by prior Boards as well as ourselves, to be operating athletically at a Division I level; theatrically at multiple, complex productions; musically, we have capacity to have marching bands that are double the size of the marching bands that we currently have…so one thing that has been missing in this discussion is stewardship,” Bird explained.

“If we built it and we are not utilizing it, are we being responsible and accountable to what the taxpayers, not just today, but historically in this district, have expected out of this district?” Bird asked. “I think the answer to that is ‘no.’ I think part of this discussion has kind of gone around the edges of a very important piece of this, which is, maximum participation is good stewardship for the assets that we’ve built as a district over the last century, so we should be doing that.”

The Board’s ability to modify its fee structure and provide more general fund support for student activities stems from a healthy five-year financial forecast and ongoing desire to revisit program and service reductions made in 2012. The Board is expected to vote on a resolution implementing the revised fee structure during its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. on October 26, 2015.

Video of the Board presentation and subsequent discussion is available online at