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 district’s 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.
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 school’s general fund, which must account for the remainder of the department’s 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.
Field board president Terry Kettering said that the elimination of extra-curricular activities would have been too damaging to the school’s 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), we’re losing even more money.
“We’ve had people say that we’re going to cut educational opportunities before we’d cut sports, but that’s not it,” Kettering added. “If we lose athletes to other schools, we’re not just losing more money, but we’re losing a number of very good students. We’re 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 school’s 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 state’s money to educate them,” Stewart said. “It’s 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 he’s pleased with the board’s decision on the fate of the school’s extra-curricular activities.
“President Kettering said that (extra-curricular activities) are not on the chopping block, and that’s not a direction they’re going to go down,” said Beun. “It’s 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 don’t 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.”