Steamboat school district may increase fees for prep sports

Student rate could increase by $25

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— The Steamboat Springs Sch­ool District’s proposal to increase individual student-athlete participation fees by $25, eliminate the family athletic fee max of $350 per year and restructure middle school coaching salaries still would leave a $12,500 budget shortfall for the 2012-13 school year, Athletics Director Luke DeWolfe said Wednesday.

Increasing transportation costs has the district and its high school athletics department facing a projected $30,000 shortfall. On Monday, district officials presented options to help cut into that deficit without axing any existing sports.

Increasing individual student athletic participation fees from $150 to $175, combined with eliminating the family max, would raise an estimated $14,475. Restructuring the middle school coaching salaries — which essentially would move some coaches from a grandfathered salary structure to the current one — would save the district an additional $3,000.

Where the remaining $12,500 would come from remains to be seen.

“We’re looking for a temporary solution that will provide more time for the (athletics department) and parent groups to come up with a more long-term solution,” Superintendent Brad Meeks told the School Board on Monday night.

DeWolfe has said he is against raising athletic fees, which he thinks could lead to decreased participation. He noted that the estimated savings of $14,475 assumes that all of this year’s 579 student sports participants would continue to participate next year in the same number of sports.

“It’s going to be interesting to see if there is a tipping point where people can no longer afford it,” DeWolfe said. “That’s a fear. We already have some of the higher fees in the state. It’s a legitimate fear for the athletic fees to get too high for people.”

DeWolfe thinks that the proposal put before the School Board on Monday is a Band-Aid, and that the real problem plaguing the district’s tiered sports structure remains unsolved.

Currently, Tier 1 and Tier 2 sports receive funds from the school district, including transportation costs. In earlier proposals, DeWolfe suggested that all Tier 2 sports become totally self-funded. The subsequent increased cost to families of Tier 2 sports athletes could have been staggering.

Meeks previously had said the district would try to find a short-term fix for the next year and form a committee to look at long-term solutions. He said what comes from that committee most likely would be implemented for the 2013-14 school year.

Reporter Scott Franz contributed to this story.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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