Formal presentation on activity fees on tap Monday for Unionville school board

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Unionville High School baseball players and others involved in school activities may see some increases in activity fees for the 2011-12 school year.—File photo.

Unionville High School baseball players and others involved in school activities may see some increases in activity fees for the 2011-12 school year.—File photo.

Research, conversations with coaches, athletes, families, taxpayers used to create picture of current status
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

EAST MARLBOROUGH — A formal presentation on the topic of activity fees will be made next Monday during the monthly Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education meeting — as the district works toward creating a unified policy for such fees during the 2011-12 school year.

Board member Jeff Leiser, who as chair of the board’s communication committee has spearheaded the public input process on the fees proposal, noted with disappointment some recent published reports referring to the proposal as “pay-to-play” suggests that students paying fees would be entitled to playing time — he said it should be referred to as a participation fee.

“This isn’t a URA (Unionville Recreation Association) model,” he said. “There’s no obligation to get playing time.”

That having been said, the district has had a wide-ranging series of discussions with various groups, ranging from coaches to parents to players — and even taxpayers with no children in the district — to get a fuller sense of people’s opinions, as well as a better snapshot of what those involved in activities are currently paying out.

Although numbers and opinions from those conversations will be formally unveiled Monday night, a preview of that presentation was made during last Monday night’s board work session.

According to district director of student life Jim Fulginiti, a fairly clear picture has emerged: most don’t want to see any cuts to existing programs and most are okay with paying modest increases to existing fees.

The figures suggest that of 2,400 middle and high school students some 6,825 students per year participate in activities — the number being nearly three times the student population means that students are involved in multiple activities. Of those, a little more than half, 3,779 have fees associated, while 3,046 do not. The total cost of athletics and activities is $885,737, while existing fees raise $87,920.

Most of the expenses come from athletics: Patton Middle School spends $197,000 yearly on sports teams, while Unionville High School spends $513,000 yearly.

Fulginiti cited additional, optional spending by parents to buy specific items for their children as $281,773.

Board member Holly Mazone asked whether all of the spending on items was needed ± and whether anyone was looking at what was being spent on what.

“Is all of this needed,” she asked. “Is anyone evaluating the necessity of these items?”

Fulginiti said that the process of what is needed versus what is merely wanted for participants is part of the evaluation process — with the idea that district would only pay for those items required, allowing parents and boosters to pay for frills at their discretion.

The board is expected to take more public input on the subject — including at next Monday’ board meeting and have a more formal proposal for the fee structure to be presented at the January board meeting, with the idea being that all numbers will be in place in time for the budgeting process for the 2011-12 school year.

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