Athletes who play multiple sports at Riverside-Brookfield High School will get a break this year on their pay-to-play fees for their second and third sports.
On July 9 the District 208 Board of Education voted 6 to 1 to adopt a new pay-to-play policy that will charge athletes $200 for their first sport in a school year, $150 for a second sport and $100 for a third sport.
Garry Gryczan cast the only no vote. Last year athletes paid a fee of $200 per sport no matter how many sports they participated in. Gryczan said that he saw no evidence that the previous policy was causing students to play fewer sports.
Two years ago when pay-to-play was instituted, the school charged a flat fee of $75 per sport, although the original proposal was for a tiered fee.
The 6 to 1 vote came shortly after the board defeated by a 4 to 3 vote a motion by John Keen to lower the pay-to-play fee even more — to $200 for the first sport, $100 for a second sport, and $50 for a third sport.
Joining Keen in supporting that motion were Laura Hruska and Tim Walsh. Voting against the Keen proposal were Gryczan, Ed Jepson, Mike Welch and school board president Matt Sinde who cast the deciding vote to break a 3-3 tie.
Keen noted that the flat $200 per sport fee that the school charged last year was perhaps the highest in the area.
“No one’s close to charging what we charge,” Keen said.
A proposal by Keen to establish a family cap of $500 for pay to play fees in a school year was defeated by a 5 to 2 vote, with only Hruska joining Keen in voting in favor of the family cap.
“I think there should be a maximum that every family should pay,” Keen said before the vote. “It’s a lot of money for some families, and I think it is reasonable that we should cap that.”
But the lack of projections about how much revenue would be lost by instituting a family cap was a bridge too far for most board members.
“I can’t see how we can vote on that when we have no idea how it would affect revenue,” Jepson said.
Mike Welch agreed.
“I think the unknowns are a big hurdle,” Welch said.
District 208 Chief Financial Officer Tim McGinnis said a family cap could be difficult to administer with the complex and varying family relationships that exist.
The change approved by the board is projected to cost the district $15,797 next year in lost revenue. The Keen proposal of $200 for the first sport, $100 for the second and $50 for the third sport would have cost the school almost double that, or $30,162, based on last year’s participation rates.
However, Hruska argued that the lower fees for second and third sports could result in some additional revenue as more students might go out for a second or third sport if they paid a reduced rate.
According to a memo provided to the board, 431 students played one sport last year, 257 students played two sports and 32 played three sports. Last year the $200-per-sport fee brought in $186,339 in revenue for the district.
Under the new tiered approach, students who qualify for the free lunch program will continue to have their pay-to-play fees waived as they did under the previous policy. The administration can also grant hardship waivers in special circumstances. About 10 percent of RBHS athletes had their fees waived last year.
Sinde said that the new policy was a good compromise.
“The board itself wanted to have it,” Sinde said. “I think it is a little less of a burden to three sport athletes, but I still think we need to look at how we can increase participation for all our students.”