It will cost more for athletes to play sports at the middle or high school level after the Blaine school board unanimously approved athletic fee increases at its May 23 meeting.
The Blaine athletic department requested the increase to help offset coaching salaries, high school vice principal and athletic director Wayne Vezzetti said. The upped fees will allow the department to maintain sports programs in a time when the school district faces roughly $1.7 million in budget adjustments for the 2011/2012 school year.
“The last thing we want to do is cut programs,” Vezzetti said.
The new fees for high school sports will be $70 for the first season, $45 for the second season and $25 for the third season. The old fee levels were $45, $30 and $15, respectively.
At the middle school level, the one-time fee will increase from $45 to $70. Students who receive free or reduced lunches will pay $15 per high school sport and a one-time $15 fee for middle school sports, up from $10 for both high and middle school.
Vezzetti said superintendent Ron Spanjer asked him for ways to make up for a possible $10,000 shortfall in athletic funds. The fees will go into either the district’s fund or the Associated Student Body fund, but will finance the athletic department either way, Vezzetti explained.
The fees are set up so that a family with one student who plays three sports per year will pay $140 per year, Vezzetti said. The average price for a student playing three sports per year across the 14 schools of the Northwest Conference, of which Blaine is a part, is $141. Students at nearby Lynden Christian high school pay a flat fee of $45 per sport.
School board member Susan Holmes asked how the increased fees will affect student participation in sports. Participation fees first started in 2007 and have increased every year since.
Vezzetti said the increase in athletic fees has not caused a noticeable drop in student participation. In addition to the reduced fees for low-income students, the athletic department also has scholarships available for students who seek them out, he added.
“If students come to me and say ‘We can’t afford it,’ we’ll find a way to get them out there,” Vezzetti said. “I don’t want a kid to not play sports because they can’t afford it.”
The board suggested Vezzetti come back to the board a year from now and give an update on student reaction to the fees.
Come fall, Vezzetti said he will conduct a survey among students about the athletic programs with one question focusing on whether the fees prevent any students from participating.