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Review Committee Weighs In on Pay-to-Participate [Poll]

A committee of Tolland residents and school district employees report on how athletic fees have become so high and how to fix the funding system.

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.

Moving Forward

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.

D June 15, 2012 at 12:03 PM
I am definitely supportive of lowering the ptp fees, but where is this extra budget money coming from? Does something on the academic side need to be cut to come up with $137,000 in order to reduce the fees from the 325/225 currently in the budget and add a family cap? That's not a small amount. Yesterday's article said the Supt now also wants to make the Athletic Director a full-time position - that wasn't in the budget either. Again, great idea, but where is the money coming from? And also adding a Computer teacher at TIS. The Supt originally said that he needed a 5.99% budget increase to just keep things "status quo" .Cuts were then made by the BOE to reduce it to 4.64%. The town ended up approving only 3% and even with the mild winter, I was concerned there would be more cuts to stay within budget. But I guess there's money to spare. Again, great news, but more details as to how this is all being paid for would be helpful.
Jayme Kunze June 15, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Hi, D! The 2011-2012 expenditures report is available in the BOE agenda from Wednesday. It lists how much the school was over/under in each account. You have to scroll for awhile to see it. That should have more information for you. http://www.tolland.k12.ct.us/UserFiles/Servers/Server_891568/File/BOE/Agenda/agenda13june12_2_.pdf
Disgusted June 15, 2012 at 01:49 PM
If you had been at the BOE meeting Weds evening, you would have heard that there was a $531,000 SURPLUS after all of the numbers for the fiscal year were taken into account. Just because the BOE asked for 4.64% does not mean that's what they needed to keep the status quo- Their original request for 5.99% was clearly a "wish" more than a "need." Even after gettiing less than requested, you can see that there is still a surplus and it wasn't just due to the mild winter. In order to get the pay-to-play down to the proposed amount, the focus group is asking for less than 1% of the entire BOE Budget. This will not effect ANY teaching positions that were already in the budget. You mentioned that "cuts" were made to get down to the 4.64...What were those cuts exactly ? Did the BOE ever specifically detail that? Have they released the Personnel side of their budget for all to see ? The answer is NO- So -basically we have no idea of exactly what the real $$ are without a totally transparent budget- we just have to take it on faith that the numbers they give are correct- But as you can see from your own observations, discrepancies have arisen already. Draw your own conclusions.
D June 15, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Thanks, Jayme, I did see that. Even with the projected surplus from 2011/2012, there is still a shortfall from the 4.64% increase 2012/2013 budget. So I'm just wondering how they're making up that shortfall and also coming up with $200,000+ for new expenditures. Again, not against the changes - just want to know how they can afford it.
D June 15, 2012 at 03:24 PM
The 531,000 projected surplus from this year doesn't fully make up the difference between the 4.64 budget request and the 3% they actually received for next year so we were told there would still be cuts/adjustments. My question is: what has changed since they submitted the budget so that they don't need that much anymore and, in fact, have extra? Not against reducing fees and adding more positions, just trying to understand this whole budget process. For your ? about the cuts made to get to 4.64 from 5.88(my mistype above) page 5 of the 2/17/12 special meeting minutes reports that the BOE voted to specifically eliminate from the proposed budget 19 items on the "At Risk" list given at the 2/8/12 meeting. These included a 3rd gr teacher, a 1st gr teacher, IT items and a variety of maintenance issues.
Disgusted June 15, 2012 at 05:08 PM
And that's part of why it makes no sense- If the BOE actually needed 4.64, and only received 3%-How is there any surplus ? If you look at the report, it's not just the mild winter- This is just my opinion, but I believe it's because the Board always asks for a lot more than they actually need because they anticipate it being voted down and reduced down the line- . And yes, I saw the "At Risk" list. But as you said, those were from their "proposed" budget- You can put whatever you want into a proposed budget, which to me, is essentially a "wish list." The "cuts" that were mentioned were things removed from their "wish list-" For example, wanting to implement new software does not mean taking away software that the school previously had. In addition, while 2 positions may have been removed ,( I suspect due to the continued decrease in student enrollment every year)teachers were also added to the BOE budget- So it's hard to keep track of it all- As for not understanding the whole budget process- you are not alone- No-one seems to understand exactly what goes on with the money- we have no detailed actuals to compare it to. Also, as previously stated, the BOE hasn't given us the Personnel side of their budget to examine (although it has been requested many times) so we are working with half the story when attempting to put the puzzle pieces together and figure out ACTUAL COSTS. The whole process is convoluted- So if you are able to figure it out, please let me know.
MaryAnn June 16, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Jayme, is it possible to list the affiliations of the individuals who served on this committee? Are they parents of current or former athletes? Was it a BoE appointed committee? Who nominated these individuals? Thanks for your efforts.
Jayme Kunze June 17, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I believe that some the members are parents of current athletes. Many of them have also been attending BOE/council meetings this budget season. However, I am not positive about that nor do I know for sure who put the committee together, so I will ask and get back to you.
MaryAnn June 19, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Thanks, Jayme.
Bob Rubino June 26, 2012 at 08:43 PM
MaryAnn, The party affiliations of the P2P Committee are readily available thru the Registrar's office, but as this was an ad-hoc committee appointed by the Superintendent, I don't believe matters of 'minority representation' apply here (if that's where your going). As the committee membership appeared to evolve over its abbreviated 4 week life, it was comprised mainly of parents of children currently enrolled at TMS and/or THS. Some of the parents were of the group that had organized the P2P Rally while others like myself and Ken Kittredge are members of Friends of Tolland Schools and are concerned about the overall health and well-being of our Town's Education System including P2P. To the best of my knowledge, I was the only non-parent of school age children, chosen by the superintendent (I would like to think) for my long-term involvement in matters of importance for our Town and my perspective afforded by being a recent 'empty nester'. A footnote: as the focus of the public debate on P2P has been dominated by Fee Levels, the unfortunate element of all of this is we will likely miss an opportunity to correct the problem of 'slippery slope' once and for all by defining the program(s) as a matter of policy. The report's recommendations speak to this, but without a champion on the BOE, Pay-to-Participate will become a 'ground hog day' budgetary casualty, that is unless we start looking at the bigger picture. respectfully, Bob Rubino Democrat

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