Potential extracurricular changes in District 88 detailed

/ 9 March 2012 / jennifer

Kremena Spengler, New Ulm Journal, March 9, 2012 –

Fee increases, spending cuts considered

NEW ULM – The District 88 Board of Education is considering a number of adjustments to the extracurricular activities budget next year, in the shape of fee increases and spending cuts.

These changes are part of approximately $1.1 million in budgetary measures under consideration.

Other budget steps include cutting teachers, encouraging early retirements, restructuring custodial, clerical and media center duties, a furlough for non-unionized employees, cutting a bus route, a fee for on-campus parking, etc.

Without any budget changes, the district is looking at a budget deficit (difference between expenditures and revenues) of about $1 million. This estimate does not factor in pending contract settlements with unions, some $50,000 in just announced utility expense hikes, and various unknowns, on both the revenue and expenditure sides.

(To put things in perspective, the budget is roughly around $20 million, and the unspoken-for reserves at the end of last fiscal year were $1.6 million.)

At a budget work session Tuesday, Activities Director Chad Eischens listed those changes in activities that are currently up for board consideration:

Increase athletic participation fees for grades 9-12 by $20 (to generate an additional $16,840).

Increase fine art participation fees for grades 9-12 (choir, jazz band, musical, Payne Street Singers, play, Knowledge Bowl, speech, ($2,060).

Increase athletic participation fees for grades 7-8 by $26 (rounding them up to $100) and fine arts fees for grades 7-8 by $20.

Charge students eligible for free and reduced lunches fees at a rate of 50 percent, rather than no fees (or a variation of this scenario; also, scholarships would be available) ($3,400).

Delay uniform purchases ($12,000).

Eliminate coach busing costs ($1,600).

Collect admission for track and softball ($3,000).

Increase fees for FFA/FCCLA membership by $10 ($500).

Implement a fair share fee for co-op-sponsored activities ($8,000-$12,000).

Seek a volunteer Yearbook/photography adviser ($8,000).

Initiate a Partners for Success plan of paid ads in programs, on the web site, electronic signage, posted banners, etc. ($15,000).

Some of these numbers are “soft,” officials acknowledged. In just one example, it is difficult to project the impact of selling ads. The St. Peter school district has done so for several years, and raises some $25,000-$30,000 a year.

As a result of the proposal, fees would increase from a range of $35 to $300 per student, to a range of $55 to $320 per student, according to a worksheet shared by Eischens.

Eischens also showed what the budgetary impact would be of a theoretical switch from the current wider slate of activities, to two sports per season per gender (officials stressed that switching to two sports is not an avowed intent, and the worksheet is for comparison purposes only).

Eischens’ example included the following sports, selected for being “typical” and widely sponsored by schools: football, boys and girls soccer and volleyball (fall); boys and girls basketball and boys and girls hockey (winter); and baseball, softball and boys and girls track (spring).

These sports cost the school district roughly $180,000 (after revenues are subtracted from expenditures), according to the worksheet.

For comparison purposes, the district “subsidizes” the current extracurriculars to the tune of roughly $330,000 per year (net cost, after revenues are subtracted from expenditures).

Various and sometimes complex considerations would play into any decision to cut sports: participation (in some cases limited by rules), gender parity (Title 9 regulations), cost per sport, amount of the district “subsidy,” etc.

Some additional thoughts, re-iterated during the latest discussion:

While some have called for deeper reductions in activities to “spare” the classroom additional pain, others have noted that activities are a relatively cost-effective way to keep some students interested in school. Participants in the discussion acknowledge that the issue is not “cut and dry.”

Until it happens, a potential loss of students due to any cuts, in activities, teaching staff, or anything else, would be speculative and difficult to quantify.