Pay-to-play sports, not music: School board requires athletic fee |

Pay-to-play sports, not music: School board requires athletic fee

It will now cost $25 to smack a baseball, dunk a basketball or squash a running back.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District board members agreed unanimously Tuesday to institute a $25 annual fee for students involved in competitive school sports at the middle and high school levels.

The five-member board agreed not to impose the same fee on the music program, which was paired with athletics in the proposal.

Lennie Schwartz, school board president, said fees for the music program were avoided because members didn’t want elementary students to shy away from fine arts, which high school students are required to take for graduating and moving on to college.

The board decided against imposing the $25 athletic fee on individual sports, so a student involved in soccer and track wouldn’t have to pay $50, for example.

The participation tax covers transportation costs. LTUSD has $1.4 million in transportation expenditures. California provides $1 million, leaving a gap of $400,000.

“We don’t like instituting fees but the transportation costs for athletics were quite high,” Schwartz said. “It doesn’t come near to covering the costs but every little bit helps.”

The district will be lucky to raise $25,000 from the fees this year, said Diane Head, chief financial officer. The difference in transportation costs will come from the general fund, as it has in the past.

South Tahoe High School Athletic Administrator Jack Stafford, who attended the meeting, said the fee is relatively cheap considering schools in the Bay Area charge students up to $200 for basketball.

Even though the fee is mandatory, Stafford assured no students will be turned away from sports if they can’t pay. The high school’s booster clubs has set aside funds on a scholarship basis, he said.

Stafford doesn’t expect the increase to negatively affect the more than 400 students on more than 30 teams at the school.

The fee is for the 2003-04 school year and will be revisited sometime next summer.

In other news:

There will be more opportunity for public comment at LTUSD school meetings after a unanimous vote changed the structure for community input.

Starting on Sept. 9, when the next board meeting is scheduled, people wanting to talk about non-agenda items will be given blue cards that will enable them to speak before the meeting.

Yellow cards will be handed to people wanting to speak on agenda items. Speakers will have three minutes to talk. A maximum of 15 minutes will be allotted.

The public comment for agenda items will occur before a vote is taken and during board members’ discussion.

Karsen Garrett, a member of Citizen’s Financial Advisory Committee, the group which initially asked the board to look for alternatives to the public comment structure, was encouraged by the vote.

“I’m very happy to see they’re trying to give the public more of a chance to have input even after they had some discussion on the item,” he said.

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