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Failed school levies threatened athletics at Field

By Colin Harris | Staff Writer Published: February 6, 2013 4:00 AM
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Following a failed levy request in November, the Field Board of Education recently learned that another $900,000 in cuts will be required to balance the districts budget for 2014.

The 5.0-mill, three-year levy was defeated at the Nov. 6 election. It was the fourth levy in a row to fail for the district.

In order to carve an additional $897,000 and present a balanced 2014 budget to the state, said Treasurer James Vokac, a number of possible budget cuts are on the table for school administrators.

One of the cuts that is no longer on the table, however, is the complete elimination of extra-curricular activities including athletics for grades 7 through 12, which the district has estimated could alone save $125,000.

According to information obtained from Field High School, the total cost for athletics including all 14 sponsored sports and administration salaries for Field Local Schools in the 2011-12 school year was $210,304.87. After estimated transportation fees are included, the final total exceeds over $250,000.

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Field does have a pay-to-play system in place, which has helped to offset the cost to run the department. Currently, participation fees are $300 per sport for high school students and $100 for middle school students.

The participation fees were raised dramatically as the 2011-12 season. Previous fees were a flat $35 charge per sport for both middle school and high school athletes.

Field High School athletic director Brad Beun said that the school collected $156,000 in participation fees, helping to lessen the drain on the schools general fund, which must account for the remainder of the departments expenses.

In an emergency situation like the one the Field Board of Education faces, all options certainly must be on the table.

The board announced that $450,000 worth of cuts will be made to help balance the budget with no cuts currently scheduled to be made that would effect the students of the district.

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Field board president Terry Kettering said that the elimination of extra-curricular activities would have been too damaging to the schools long-term health.

We have over 400 athletes at Field and if you look at it, if even a low number of 10 percent of our athletes leave the school, that is a very scary number, Kettering said of the potential loss of tax money. If they take that money with them (which Kettering estimated at $5,700 per student), were losing even more money.

Weve had people say that were going to cut educational opportunities before wed cut sports, but thats not it, Kettering added. If we lose athletes to other schools, were not just losing more money, but were losing a number of very good students. Were losing money right now and we feel we can make cuts without eliminating things for the students.

At a meeting last month, Field board member Laura May quoted statistics that losing the schools student-athletes could cost the district as much as $2.5 million in state funding.

Although the option has been taken off the table, Field board member Larry Stewart said last week that the threat of eliminating athletics had already begun to be felt.

If sports (were) cut, families will definitely leave for neighboring districts, along with the states money to educate them, Stewart said. Its already happening with the anticipation of cuts. I have personally talked with parents that are now sending their student to the Mogadore school district.

Field board member Allyson Westover, the mother of Field student-athletes, said that the elimination of athletics would have been a devastating blow to its students development.

In some cases, athletics may be the only reason a student attends school and maintains a high GPA, in order to participate in sports and eventually graduate, Westover said. In other cases, a coach may be the only positive adult role model the student has to reference.

A school district needs to be able to offer a well-rounded education to our students, not only in the classroom, but in areas where our students find an interest or a talent, and that requires extra-curricular activities (like athletics).

Beun said that hes pleased with the boards decision on the fate of the schools extra-curricular activities.

President Kettering said that (extra-curricular activities) are not on the chopping block, and thats not a direction theyre going to go down, said Beun. Its good news that (the board) is recognizing the role (extra-curricular activities) provide.

Kettering said that athletics were not alone in being eliminated. Had that option been taken, everything from band to drama and student council would have been eliminated entirely from the school.

Last month at one of our meetings, we had a parent stand up and point out that colleges want do know what students are doing with their extra-curricular activities when they go to apply, Kettering said. If we dont offer any sort of extra-curricular activities, what are our students going to be putting on their applications?

Kettering said that Field Superintendent Beth Coleman, along with Vokac, worked to explore every option that would prevent the elimination of opportunities for students.

Beth and James both did a tremendous job coming up with different options, Kettering said. We have to rely on their recommendations as a board and they did a very good job.

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anonymous Feb 6, 2013 7:21 PM

bcdc4; excellent remarks. something all districts should consider.

anonymous Feb 6, 2013 4:54 PM

It is due to the community that spoke up at the board meetings that the extra-curricular activities were not cut as well as support from Field Superintendent Beth Coleman. I am never enlightened with any contributions from the board to offer suggestions for adjusting anything meaningful for cost reductions. All ideas have come from the public and various groups and the board has been handed these and have done a great job of being a copy cat. Board's are elected for a reason, to work up as a team some ideas to help control cost and lead not follow. As far as the cost 78 to 80% of our tax dollars go to personnel and pensions and pension pick ups. That gives us only 20 to 22% to control. We can cut pension pick-ups and save around $83,000.00 now. Negotiations for the contract will be taking place in June and the public needs to get these numbers changed. We need to have them go to a 401k program like the tax payers have, they need to pay the same percentage for benefits as the tax payers, we need to look at step increases. Again the private sector has less and is paying the public sector more than they even have. The public has lost pensions and have had to adjust to 401k programs only. I am not against unions but it is not a equatable investment to give more then is given in this economy and changing times. The percentages are too lop sided. We also need to contact the state and see if schools projected budgets could be reduced to 2 yrs. not 4 yrs. with all the state funding cuts so we can adjust with the economy. Field citizens need to get involved and work on this and get active in meetings and suggestions. Waterloo School districts levy passed by only 25 votes. Only 32.4% of the residents voted. That is awful. I sure hope more people get out and vote in our school district. Be concerned about your community and get involved we are all needed!

anonymous Feb 6, 2013 4:05 PM

Typical school reaction is to take away from the student, but dont you dare take anything away from the teachers or the administration.

anonymous Feb 6, 2013 12:28 PM

Congratulations, and great work, Mrs. Coleman and all who worked with you! Now we need to concentrate on getting the May levy passed!