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Impact of participation fees ‘minimal,’ coaches say

9/27/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

The Woodridge Local School District’s new fees to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities have not had the possible devastating effect some had feared.

Woodridge Superintendent Walter Davis reported at the Sept. 18 Board of Education meeting “the coaches are saying the impact has been minimal.”

In April the board approved fees of $125 per student per sport at the high school level and $75 per sport at the middle school to help offset the district’s budget deficit.

Woodridge High School Principal Joel Morgan said that fall sports team rosters are slightly smaller than in recent years. Football, for example, has 52 players this fall compared to 66 last fall.

Jesse Hosford, Middle School principal, said there are 105 participants in all the fall sports there this fall compared to 106 last fall.

Davis expressed concern about the expense especially for families with multiple children in multiple sports, though, and said officials would continue to monitor the fees-for-participation situation through the rest of the school year.

Following the major contingency budget cuts the board approved Sept. 6 in case the operating levy does not pass Nov. 6, board members decided to table any more future cuts until they might be needed.

If the 6.83-mill levy does not pass, Treasurer Deanna Levenger has said the district will need to cut at least another $1.8 million to balance its budget. The amount that would be saved through the planned Sept. 6 cuts, in addition to the savings that would come from reducing busing, would total around $1.89 million, Levenger said.

But the board revisited one previously voted reduction. The district has two bus mechanics, and the board voted to cut one of them at the last meeting.

On further study, Davis said, it would cost much more to have to take buses to a private vendor for repairs than to have their in-house mechanics fix them.

“Even with the busing cuts, we will still have a large fleet of buses,” said Davis, adding that is too many for just one mechanic to take care of.

So board members voted unanimously not to cut the second mechanic if the levy fails.

Davis said the decision to eliminate high school busing and restrict it for younger students to only those who live at least 2 miles away would eliminate seven bus driver positions. He said 850 students would no longer be bused, including 600 from the high school. He said they did not yet know what the fuel savings would be.

Board President Tammy Heffernan said the traffic now on Quick Road in front of the middle and high schools at 7:30 a.m. is “unbelievable, and we have buses now. What would it be like if we have to cut the busing?”

Davis acknowledged the traffic problems, as well as safety concerns, but said they had no choice.

“We have to have a balanced budget, or the state of Ohio will come in and balance it for us,” he said. “We won’t be able to discuss it.”

Davis said should that happen, the state would reduce busing to its minimum requirement.

“The public has to understand that it’s against the law [for a school district] to have a negative balance at the end of the year,” said board member Marilyn Hansen. “We’re not threatening anyone. If the levy fails, we won’t have enough money to pay for what we’re doing now. That’s a fact, not threats.”

Two years ago, Woodridge was notified by the state that it was in “fiscal caution,” Davis said. District officials prepared a plan to cut expenses and boost revenues, which included an operating levy, so the state backed off. They have not been able to pass a levy, however.

Davis said it’s an issue of local control vs. state control: “does this community want the state to come in and make decisions for us?” he asked.

That’s why, the school board members said, they are preparing a lengthy list of positions and services that will have to be cut for the 2013-14 school year if this fourth attempt at passing an emergency levy should fail in November.

The board will meet Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Woodridge High School Library, 4440 Quick Road.

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