The school board addressed concerns and raised questions for some residents with a presentation on the schools' pay-to-play athletics program during Tuesday night's meeting.
While the presentation outlined the background of pay-to-play in Tolland and included cost breakdowns for six different sports, parents and residents called for more information from the board.
"It doesn't add up," commented resident Lori Salina of the board's handout which stated that $112,358 will be needed to fund athletic programs at the high school and middle school in addition to the funds raised from fees of $325 for varsity and JV and $225 at the middle school. A total of $259,258 would be needed to return fees to $125 for all sports, an increase of $146,900.
Salina expressed concern because the number differs from the $153,677 requested for student athletics in the BOE budget on the school district website.
Another parent also requested information on how much funding comes in from booster clubs and other private donations. The private funding amounts were not included in the presentation.
Chairperson Andy Powell said that the discrepancy that Salina mentioned would be investigated and clarified. He added that any questions from parents should be sent to either BOE members or the BOE office so that they can be addressed at later meetings.
"Tonight is a first conversation," Powell said. "We understand that emotions are high, and that there are heavy financial burdens that the parents are paying."
In the presentation, attached above, Powell said that the pay-to-play fees increased significantly after the 2009-2010 fiscal year, in which the school board received a one percent budget increase. The board received no increase in 2008-2009, according to the presentation.
Powell said that in 2009-2010, the school suffered significant staff cuts: 15.4 teaching positions, 4.5 paraprofessionals and 2.5 custodial positions. Powell explained that when facing even more staffing cuts for core curriculum, it was difficult to defend athletic funding at $125 fees.
Superintendent William Guzman agreed with several commenters who expressed frustration that parents are funding athletics, which they argued should be supported by taxpayers as a part of providing an education to Tolland students.
"Parents in this room have subsidized what I believe is a community obligation," Guzman said. "That to me is unconscionable."
He mentioned that the proposed tax increase for a mid-level assessed home in Tolland would consist of a $61 tax increase if the current budget passes, and compared that to the hundreds of dollars parents are paying individually to fund school athletics.
Tolland resident Brenda Falusi said that she'd like to see a more detailed and easily understandable breakdown of budget information, but also said that residents should become involved earlier in the budget process, especially since the school board budget can be quite complex.
"It would have been nice to see a lot of the parents earlier," she said. However, she remained hopeful that conversations will continue between parents and the schools.
"I think the process will improve," she said.
Powell said that a pay-to-play task force may be formed to address the issue.
Check out the presentation above to see background on pay-to-play and to view a detailed breakdown of six different sports budgets. Powell added that all surplus funds go back into the general athletic fund.
The school board also approved the 2012-2013 school calendar at the meeting, which is included in the meeting's agenda. Lunch prices were also increased to $2.25 at the elementary schools, $2.50 at the middle school and $2.75 at the high school. Powell said it was the first lunch price increase since 2006.