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Board mulls participation fund changes

For most of a decade, booster groups throughout Warren County have been covering funding shortfalls for sports programs.

During years of state-level education spending cuts in the early 2010s, Warren County School District cut the amount of funding provided to sports.

The district instituted a policy by which students participating in sports and other co-curricular activities are required to pay a registration fee. Those dollars do not and were not intended to cover the shortfall in the budget.

Booster groups and other community organizations have been able to make sure the sports students interested are maintained.

On Monday, a school board member asked the board to pony up some more money to give those groups a break

During the personnel, athletics, and co-curricular activities committee meeting, board member Jeff Labesky made a motion that the board designate all pay-to-participate fees remain in the school for which the students were paying the fees and that they be earmarked for the athletic budget. He suggested the same for music programs and added that parking fees collected at each school should remain at those buildings.

The estimated $75,000 to $80,000 per year from the athletic pay-to-participate payments would take much of the burden off of the boosters, Labesky said.

The pay-to-participate dollars currently go to the district’s general fund, according to Director of Business Services Jim Grosch.

“What are we spending it on now that we’re not going to be able to afford” if the dollars are moved from the general fund to the schools’ athletic budgets? board President Donna Zariczny asked.

The district doesn’t earmark that income for anything in particular, Grosch said. “We don’t match up dollar-for-dollar. We’re using that… to buy something in the district.”

“It’s not just a matter of taking these dollars and put them into each of the schools,” Zariczny said. “It’s taking away from what the current purpose is. It’s not found money.”

Labesky did not dispute that there would be a shortfall elsewhere, arguing that funding district programs is the district’s responsibility.

Zariczny suggested that the board consider that kind of change during its budget discussions.

“My argument is, ‘put it on the adds and deducts,'” she said. “Administration has to find a way to overcome that shortfall as opposed to just usurp the budgetary process.”

“Or, if I get a second, we can do it now,” Labesky said.

There was no second and the motion died.

Eligibility

Labesky commented on the new academic eligibility requirements set by the board.

“The new eligibility status was put in at the beginning of the winter season,” he said. Building officials “have indicated the tighter eligibility requirements are working well.”

Students who are failing two or more classes are not eligible. The old regulations, which were based on PIAA rules, were not as concise. Under those, it was possible for students to be eligible while failing two or more classes depending on the number of credits in the class.

District-wide Coordinator of Athletics and Co-curricular Activities Rick Gignac agreed that the teachers are pleased with the change. “They like it,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to keep track of.”

Labesky pointed out that there have not, so far, been times when a program could not compete due to the eligibility changes.

“I know some board members had concerns that this was going to result in some teams not being able to field a team,” he said.

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