Thursday, October 22, 2015

Board might slash costs by 37 percent

Friday October 16, 2015 5:37 PM

Parents may see lower pay-to-participate fees as soon as this winter.

Westerville school board members are prepared to approve proposed changes to the current pay-to-participate fee model.

A resolution will be introduced at the next board meeting to suspend the current fee schedule and implement a tiered model, similar to that of the Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District.

For a high school athlete, it would cost $150 for the first sport, $75 for the second sport and the third sport would be free. For middle school, it would be $75 for the first sport, $50 for the second sport and the third sport is free. There also would be a family cap of $300.

Currently, high school students pay $240 per sport and middle school students pay $120, with no family cap.

The new fees would be a 37.5 percent reduction.

Participation in clubs, theater programs and co-curricular activities such as band, choir or orchestra would be free under the new model.

Now, more than 33 clubs such as yearbook, Key Club and fishing charge a $15 fee. The theater program as well as co-curriculars are $50.

The changes would take effect for winter sports and next school year for clubs and co-curriculars because students have already paid their fees for the year, said Scott Reeves, the district's executive director of secondary academic affairs.

In a presentation at the Monday, Oct. 12, school board meeting, Reeves said 17 of the 19 Ohio Capital Conference districts charge pay-to-play fees, with the average being $170 for high school and $120 for middle school. Eight of those districts have some kind of a family or individual cap.

All of the board members were in favor of lessening the burden on Westerville families.

"For some of these kids, sports is the reason they are staying in school. I agree it would be nice to lower the fees even more, but I'm very excited to say to the community that we are now able to make a difference for families," said board member Rick Vilardo.

Rob Rothney, president of the Central athletic boosters, agreed some students have stayed in school because of football or soccer.

"To have a reduction in pay-to-play would be significant for us. That would bring tears to parents' eyes," he said.

School officials said the current fee model has hurt spring sports such as track and field because students can't afford another sport.

"Part of the impact of these fees is that we are seeing less kids doing three sports. That was the norm growing up in my day," said Superintendent John Kellogg. "I think we should give our families some breathing room and suspend this current model and then evaluate it annually."

Also Monday, board members approved a resolution to investigate refinancing old bonds.

Dave Conley, president of Rockmill Financial Consulting, described potential scenarios for refinancing a 2006 bond in December to potentially secure a lower interest rate.

"This would mean a possible reduction in property taxes, however the money potentially gained would not go into the general fund," Conley said.

"Here, we have the opportunity to do something of value for our taxpayers and our financial base and I appreciate that we are in this position," Vilardo said.

The board's next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Early Learning Center, 936 Eastwind Drive.

http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/westerville/news/2015/10/13/pay-to-participate-fees-board-might-slash-costs-by-37-percent.html