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DVUSD to implement athletic participation fees

Elizabeth Medora ~ Staff~ 5/20/2015

NORTH VALLEY – After repeated debate, the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board voted to implement athletic participation fees for the upcoming school year.

In the May 12 Board meeting, the proposed athletic participation fees were approved for next school year’s budget, while being lowered from the original proposal. These fees follow multiple cuts and budget upheavals since the state budget came out in March. The 2015-16 state budget left the DVUSD with a $4.4 million shortfall.

Originally, fees were planned to be $125 per high school sport and $75 per middle school sport, with family and student caps. The fees that will be implemented will be $100 per high school sport and $60 per middle school sport. The student fee cap will be two times the cost per athlete ($200 cap for a high-schooler). Families will be capped at $300 total. For families who can’t afford the fees, hardship funding will be available; details of that have not been shared yet.

Public commenters spoke before the vote was taken. Parents fought the fees, saying students from lower income homes would no longer be available to participate in sports programs. One commenter said that the board funded district office jobs instead of funding sports.

Deer Valley High School football and track and field coach Eric Bolus said that the has “seen what it (athletic participation fees) does to other districts.”

Describing the current school year, Bolus said, “We have students at the school and not at other districts because there is no fee.”
 
A Deer Valley High School student addressed the Board, noting that people were upset over not knowing where the funds from the fees would be spent.

“When they can’t see where the money’s going, I can see how that would bother them, and it bothers me because by my junior year or my senior year, I may not have a cross-country team to run on,” the student said.

Another commenter called using athletic participation fees to save district jobs a “travesty.”

Jim Migliorino, DVUSD Associate Superintendent of Fiscal and Business Services, spoke after the public commenters, clarifying details and answering Board member questions.

“We have had lengthy discussions about athletic participation fees over many years,” Migliorino said.

Migliorino described the updated fees, lowered from the original plan, noting that the lower fees were the DVUSD administrative recommendation. The fees as implemented will generate $400,000. The proposed higher fees would have generated $500,000; Migliorino noted that a “non-personnel district department allocation” would be making up the remaining $100,000. Migliorino added that the district is currently paying $2 million for coaches, as well as additional transportation expenses.

Governing Board members then discussed the athletic participation fees.

Board member Ann Ordway asked Migliorino if the athletic participation fees would be in addition to or replace the charges already assessed by coaches, saying, “It was my hope that it would not be this fee in addition to” the coaches’ fees, “for this not to be on top of something that is already there.”

Migliorino answered that those fees “are set at the school level currently” and that the district is now working to establish criteria for those fees. Migliorino also noted that it had not been the district office staff’s recommendation that athletic participation fees be considered by the Board. While the district finance staff had examined the option of athletic participation fees, this option will need more in-depth review now that it has been implemented.

Superintendent Dr. James Veitenheimer also answered Ordway, noting that doing away with the school-assessed fees would be a “budget cut” for the programs and that it would be like telling schools, “Whatever it was that was there, you don’t get to have that anymore.”

“It is a bear of a concept for sure,” Veitenheimer said. He added that school-assessed fees vary across the district.

Board member Ron Bayer spoke next.

“Well, here we go again,” Bayer said. “The decision that we have to make here is really simple: Do we put more funds in the district office for some unnecessary administrators, or do we put this toward the children? To me, that’s pretty clear-cut. It needs to go to the children.”

Bayer added that in the past, the Board has been “treated to this entourage of people” asking the Board to keep the district administrators. “Not one teacher came up and spoke on their behalf,” Bayer said.

He asked the other Board members not to consider any athletic participation fees, ending with, “If necessary, we need to eliminate those district office administrators.”

Board member Kimberly Fisher spoke next.

“Half the district office administrators that you see in this room tonight have been cut,” Fisher said. “The reality is we have cut this district office. Dr. Veitenheimer has gone to great lengths to make the cuts that we requested, based on what the governor has done to funding.”

Board member Ann O’Brien noted that the positions saved included teachers who mentor first-year and new-to-the-district teachers.

“I believe athletics are incredibly important to students,” O’Brien said. She noted that athletics are not considered classroom dollars when it comes to state funding and are actually counted as administrative costs that count against the district.

“None of our options were good,” O’Brien emphasized.

Board president Michael Gregoire also said that neither of the budget options were good choices.

Gregoire said that the reason everyone was there was to “educate our kids. To make them into good adults. Sports does that. It creates character.”

“This affects kids directly,” Gregoire said. “Academic facilitators affect kids indirectly.”

After some procedural questions, the Board voted. Bayer and Gregoire voted against the fees. Fisher, Ordway, and O’Brien voted for the fees; the motion passed 3-2.

The next DVUSD Governing Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26. Offer input on this or other district issues by commenting at the open meeting. See more information at www.DVUSD.org.