School board approves hiking the cost to participate in sports to $200 per individual

Having already eliminated or greatly reduced supply budgets for winter and spring sports this school year, Newberg High School Athletic Director Tim Burke had no place left to cut when looking ahead to the 2014-2015 school year. by: FILE PHOTO - Pay to play -- Student athletic fees at Newberg High School will rise from $160 per player per sport to $200 in the 2014-2015 school year. The individual maximum and family maximums will also rise from $320 and $480 to $400 and $600, respectively.

That’s why Burke proposed, and the Newberg School Board approved at its April 22 meeting, a plan to increase athletic fees at the high school by 25 percent.

Currently, athletes pay $160 per sport, with a $360 maximum per individual or a $480 maximum for families.

Next year the rates will be $200, $400 and $600, respectively.

Burke has been pressed into making the same decision before, but on the positive side, he believes it’s been at least 12 years since they were last increased.

“The decision was either cut a good chunk of our programs or find revenue, so one of the solutions at that time was to go from $80 to $160,” Burke said.

The hike was driven by the same issues that resulted in the slashing of the supply budget this year, increases in the cost for transportation and officials.

Burke noted that the athletic department’s supply budget has not changed in roughly 20 years and that every team already runs its own fundraisers to cover costs. He added that the addition of boys and girls lacrosse as varsity sports last year and the addition of junior varsity teams for both programs has played a role in the increases.

“We saw this as an opportunity to gain some ground back and not be in the hole so much with the athletic budget because almost all of it, if not all of it, is transportation and official costs,” Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza said. “We want to do our best to provide supplies, equipment and materials. This will give us a chance to balance it out at least a little bit.”

Board member Debbie Hawblitzel asked Burke if the high school would continue to provide scholarships for students and families that can’t afford to pay the fees, like those that qualify for free or reduced student lunch. Burke said it will.

“That is a big deal for me,” Burke said. “Coming from family of nine kids, I don’t want to put something out there that’s going to prevent kids from participating.”

Burke added that the department and its coaches find different ways to pay for scholarships, often through fundraising, but also by having student athletes work off the fees by participating in special projects, including maintenance.

“Some kids volunteer to do projects, like we put up slats on the tennis courts,” Burke said. “Some of those kids helped because they wanted to help and some of them we asked to help because it would be a way for them to work it off.”

Burke also presented research about where Newberg stands in terms of athletic fees compared to the seven other high schools in the Pacific Conference and the five new ones it will compete against as a member of the Three Rivers League beginning next season.

Only McMinnville ($120/$360/$360) in the current conference and Canby ($150/$300/$450) in the new conference have fees lower than Newberg’s, while the new price structure will match that of the Hillsboro schools and Forest Grove.

Some schools, like in the Tigard-Tualatin district have higher individual fees ($225) but no individual limits, with others, including the Lake Oswego district, charge $300 per sport with no maximums of any kind.

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