A Look At How Some Ohio Schools Handle Pay-To-Play Fees

August 21, 2012 /
News-Herald.com (Ohio), Caitlin Fertal and Jean Bonchak


Only a few days remain before students are back to school, with some districts starting as early as Wednesday.

After spending money to ensure children have the supplies they need for the new year, parents may have to dig a little deeper into those pockets to fork over more for their young athletes.

With schools across the state struggling to balance their budgets, pay-to-participate fees are not likely to disappear any time soon.

Here’s a breakdown of charges by district:

Riverside Schools tops the charts for its fees.

For the first time, the district will take the total cost of the sport, and divide that out by how many players there are.

For athletes this year, that means high school football players will pay $855 each, while middle school will pay $416.

The most expensive sport on the roster is high school volleyball, totalling $863 per student.

The least expensive is eighth through 12th grade cheerleading, at $268 per season.

Also, because of low participation, freshman football, volleyball, varsity girls tennis and seventh- and eighth-grade soccer and cross country will not be offered in the fall.

“After our three failed levies, we were forced to make cuts to the tune of about $7.5 million,” Superintendent James Kalis said. “We tried to avoid athletics and extracurricular activities, but we couldn’t do it any more after the third failed levy.

“We still wanted to continue providing the opportunity for the students,” he added. “There were a lot of discussions at board meetings along with parents that we would have sports and other activities self-sustaining through higher pay-to-participate fees.”

Treasurer Mike Rock explained that by having students foot the bill, the district has eliminated $550,000 from its budget.

While Kalis said things seem to be working pretty well so far, the end game is to reduce the fees when possible.

“We’re hoping that in the near future, that with any additional revenue that we might receive, that there will be some serious discussion about how to drive some of those costs down to make it more available to our students,” he said.

For students who want to participate in drama or mock trial, there’s a price for that, too: $109 and $220, respectively.

Painesville School District charges a significantly lower, one-time fee per student. High school students pay $125 and middle school students pay $75, which covers as many sports as the child wants to play for that school year.

Wickliffe students pay $100 per sport, with a $500 maximum charge for families each year.

Mentor School District charges a family rate for sports.

The first sport for high school students is $200 per family, and any additional sports come with a charge of $50 each.

“If Johnny plays football and Sally plays basketball, then Johnny’s $200 and Sally’s $50,” said Athletic Director Jeff Cassella.

The middle school is slightly less expensive, with a charge of $150 per family for the first sport, and the same $50 fee for all sports after that.

These fees were in place before Cassella taking the position of athletic director five years ago and he said there have been no discussions of increasing them since.

Kirtland, Fairport Harbor and Perry school districts do not charge any fees to their athletes.

Willoughby-Eastlake School District charges $90 per sport at the high school level and $80 per sport for middle school students, with a few exceptions.

Football comes with a higher price tag of $125 for the high school and $90 for middle school.

Students on free and reduced lunches also pay reduced fees for sports, Superintendent Steve Thompson said.

For high school students in the Madison School District, the fee is $125 per student for the first sport, $75 for the second and $50 for the third. Middle school students are less, with $75 for the first, $50 for the second and $25 for the third.

The district has set a maximum charge of $400 per family for all grade levels.

That district will look at how to manage finances after a failed levy two weeks ago, and Treasurer Michael Vaccariello said that the fees may be assessed in future discussions.

“I think that’s going to be part of an overall, general discussion on how we do business going forward,” he said.

Geauga County

Of the seven school districts within Geauga County, only Kenston School District doesn’t require fees to participate in extracurricular activities. Costs for the remaining six vary.

Ledgemont and West Geauga school districts both charge flat fees.

For example, the cost at Ledgemont is $150 per student, per season for grades seven through 12. This includes any sport, cheerleading, marching band and drill team.

“We have a few students who want to participate in more than one activity during a season and this allows them to do so,” said Athletic Director Paula Ruck.

The cost for West Geauga Middle School students is $110 per year, while high school students in the district pay $195 for all athletics and marching band.

Extracurricular activities such as academic decathlon, choir, mock trial and the school musical cost $40 each.

Those manning Chardon Hilltopper sports teams, including football, basketball, soccer and others pay a $225 activity fee, while band and drama each carry a price tag of $50.

At Berkshire High, the charge for each sport is $395, and students are not charged for more than two.

District Superintendent Doug DeLong said that he thinks the inability to pay the expense prevents some students from taking part in extracurricular activities.

Cardinal District Superintendent Paul Yocum agrees.

“Some students cannot participate in an activity or must choose one activity due to the cost placed upon the family,” he said.

In that district, a cap of $400 is placed on high school activities, with that amount charged for participation in football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, and track and field. Fees then slide downward for other programs including baseball, $365-$390, and $325-$285 for cross country. Charges vary depending on the number of students signing up for those teams. Middle school fees are less.

Yocum doesn’t foresee any price decreases in the near future.

“If anything, the cost will go up as our district faces financial difficulties due to a poor funding plan by the state of Ohio,” he said.

Newbury School District has charged $125 per student per interscholastic sport and cheerleading for the last two years.

“I’d like to get to a point where this school and other schools do not charge fees, but state support would have to show a substantial increase for that to happen,” said Superintendent Richard Wagner. “I have no personal plans to recommend an increase in participation fees, and the board has held no discussions about that possibility.”

Many of the districts cite supplementary funds as essential to the viability of extracurriculars.

About $60,000 comes from Cardinal’s general fund, and other entities add a substantial amount on top of that.

“We could not have our extensive activities program without the help of the booster groups, parent/teacher organizations, community organizations, and business donations,” Yocum said.

Ledgemont Superintendent Julie Ramos said, “The $150 fee does not even come close to covering the actual cost of most of the sports, band, (and) cheerleading. The actual costs probably range from $500 to $1,000, depending on the sport/activity.”

Cuyahoga County

Students at Euclid High School will pay more this year than they have in the past.

There will be a $100 fee per student for the first sport, followed by $50 for any additional sports.

This is an increase from the previous formula of $75 for the first sport plus $25 for additionals.

The 2011-12 fee schedule included a maximum of $250 per family, which has been changed to a maximum of $150 per athlete for the 2012-13 school year.

Athletes in the Richmond Heights Local School District pay $100 per sport played.

“Granted, that no way comes close to the cost of the sports, but in our district it would be difficult to get much more, and we don’t want to hurt kids by not allowing participation,” Treasurer Brenda Brcak said.

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