Debate over pay-to-participate athletic fees . Many residents have demanded that the rates, which are some of the highest in the state, be lowered from the current fees of $275 a sport at and $125 at .
However, the budgetary realities have looked grim, since the gave the school district a three percent increase, which failed to meet the 4.64 percent budget that the board requested.
But a group of Tolland residents and school district employees have been hard at work, studying the reasons behind the high athletic fees and how to move forward, as part of the Pay-to-Participate Review Committee.
According to the committee report presented at , financial support from the Board of Education for athletic programs has been eroding over the last ten years, while the percentage of the program funded from student fees has been rising steadily, as illustrated in the graph above.
"In fiscal year 2002-2003, collected fees represented no more than 10 percent of the total athletics program. Today those fees represent two-thirds of the district's expenditures," the committee said in the report.
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Ten years ago, 1.3 percent of the school board budget was dedicated to the athletics program, while this year's budget takes up a mere .33 percent.
Nearby towns in Tolland's District Reference Group, such as Ellington, RHAM, etc., usually had board budgets with 1 - 1.5 percent funding athletics, the committe reported. All of the districts had lower athletic fees or very strong booster clubs to supplement funding.
"I do think that this needs to be monitored and needs to have attention given to it each year," committee member Ken Kittredge said of the findings at the meeting. Kittredge is also a member of Friends of Tolland Schools.
The committee report added that the program has likely fallen victim to a sort of "institutional memory loss," since long-term data on program funding like athletics is not readily available nor is it often presented in the budget process.
Through fee analysis, the committe ended up recommending a reduction in fees to $125 at TMS and $175 at the high school, with a $700 family cap, a rate that Superintendent William Guzman adopted into .
At that rate, the majority of families with student-athletes would pay $225 a year or less.
Kittredge also provided these paraphrased recommendations from the committee, as pay-to-participate continues to evolve in Tolland:
1) The current cost of Pay to Participate is one of the highest in the State of Connecticut with NO family cap. For this coming budget cycle, we would ask that the BOE reduce Pay to Participate fees to $175 per sport per athlete at the high school and $125 per sport per athlete at the middle school with a family cap of $700.
2) We believe that Athletics is a critical element to a well balanced education and needs to be funded adequately each year. Tolland's district funding of athletics has fallen below historic norms over the past years. We are recommending that the BOE target future athletic funding levels of 1% to 1.5% of the total BOE budget.
3) Fundraising should not fall upon the responsibility of the coaches and staff. Support organizations, similar to our current Booster Clubs, could be created to help with additional team fundraising.
4) An Annual Athletics report should be generated at the end of each school year that provides an overview of the total BOE budget and the athletic budget for that year, pay to participate fees, family caps (if any), individual team participation levels and team revenues and expenses.
"My hope would be that as we monitor and as we come up with ideas, that we eventually arrive at the spot where we don't have pay-to-play fees," Kittredge added at the school board meeting.
The school board will discuss and approve the final budget adjustments at the June 27 meeting.
The members of the Pay-to-Participate Review Committee are:
- Lou and Melissa Deloreto
- Doug Domian
- Sue Keane
- Ken Kittredge
- Bob Rubino
- Lori Salina
- Robin and Mike Shea
- Dan and Beth Whitman
- Superintendent William Guzman
- Tolland Schools Business Manager Jane Neel
- Athletic Director Patrick Cox
The full committee report is attached to the article in PDF form.