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Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Coldwater school board considers pay-to-participate for athletes

By William Kincaid
COLDWATER - School officials say they don't want to start a pay-to-play athletic system, but as fuel prices escalate and finances are crunched, something has to be done, Superintendent Rich Seas says.
Seas and school board members began discussions Tuesday on how skyrocketing diesel prices will affect athletic, music and field trips.
This past school year's total fuel costs are coming in around $65,000-$70,000, according to Treasurer Sherry Shaffer. That is significantly up from the $36,500 fuel cost in 2005. Shaffer projects fuel costs of $85,000 for next school year.
"It's a concern," Seas said about transportation costs. "It affects us in many different ways."
Cuts will have to be made somewhere as the 2008-2009 budget is already established.
"People are used to having things and now they're not going to have them," high school Principal Steve Keller said.
The athletic department is similar to a stand-alone business as its revenue is generated from ticket sales and other proceeds, Seas said. It pays for athletic uniforms, equipment, game officials and 80 percent of the transportation costs, including the driver.
The board of education charges the athletic department $1.20 for each mile, which includes wear and tear to the bus, insurance and fuel costs.
The school's general fund pays the total bill for academic-related music trips, such as solo and ensemble competitions. But the band boosters pay for non-academic trips of football games and parades.
The board and administration must decide whether they will increase subsidizing or simply require the athletic and music officials to find ways to cut their costs.
Whatever decisions are made, Seas said the fuel cost situation is a collective problem and will be treated as such.
If the board were to pay more, budget slashes would have to made in other areas, such as cutting a teacher.
"Where does that slice of the pie come from?" Shaffer asked.
Shaffer said the school has never charged the athletic department the full cost of transportation.
"When diesel goes up, it's physically impossible to charge the full (cost) to these groups," she said.
School officials made various suggestions on Tuesday night, such as only bringing athletes who would play to away sporting events in order to reduce the number of buses needed. They also talked about scheduling the same school to play the varsity baseball and softball teams so they could be transported on the same bus.
Seas said administrators considered removing a bus route for student transportation to school, but they discovered it wasn't cost effective.
"I think we all need to be on the same page," Seas told board members.
Board member Dan Rose compared the situation to being a student at Coldwater during the '70s fuel crisis, when he said no field trips were scheduled for a couple of years to save costs.
Shaffer said the increase of fuel is affecting other areas of the school budget as well. Supplies, especially those made of polymers, and shipping costs are significantly rising. In fact, many vendors are now charging an additional fuel surcharge.
"It's not going to get any better," she told board members.
This fall, employees at each building will have to reduce purchase orders as prices are increasing and the budget already is set, she said.
"Their budget isn't going to stretch as far," Shaffer added.
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