Despite two board members’ objections that after-school fees are unfair, students wanting to play sports next year will have to pay.
On Monday, the Payson Unified School District Board approved the continuation of athletic fees in a 3-2 vote.
For high schoolers, that means paying $200 for the first sport, an extra $50 for a second with the cap at $400. At the middle school, parents will have to shell out $75 with the family cap at $150.
Payson High School Assistant Principal Anna VanZile said the school would issue fee waivers to any students unable to pay.
“Our intention is that no student is turned away due to financial limitations,” she said.
Despite that promise, board members Kim Pound and Barbara Shepherd said they opposed the fees.
Shepherd said it is unfair to impose a fee on parents already dealing with money woes and believed the board should reduce or eliminate the fees.
Superintendent Casey O’Brien said eliminating the fees or lowering them would mean painful cuts elsewhere.
Pound said students must have open access to sports, which often motivates students to stay in school and do well.
“I don’t like the pay-to-play program,” he said, adding he paid for his college education through a sports scholarship.
“Sports are such an important part of the education system,” he said. “I would like to see us pick up the financial end for all students.”
O’Brien said with the state cutting funding and enrollment dropping 7 percent, the district needed the athletic fees.
Last year, fees and ticket sales brought in roughly $95,000, with $60,000 coming directly from student fees. Gate fees produced another $25,000 and annual passes $6,000. Even with the fees, the district still had to pay out $60,000 to cover costs.
Since imposing fees two years ago, the district has seen a decrease in participation in baseball, cross-country, girls basketball, golf, girls and boys soccer, softball and track.
O’Brien won’t directly correlate the drop to the fees, saying falling enrollment and increased graduation requirements mean fewer student players.
With high school registration ongoing, it’s unknown if sport participation will continue dropping this year.
Parents have until the end of registration to pay any athletic fees.
Students applying for financial assistance should know if they are approved by the first competitive sporting event in mid August.
Last year, fewer than 10 percent of students sought fee waivers through the scholarship program, O’Brien said.
Board member Matt VanCamp said although he doesn’t like paying the fees for his children, he understands the district’s need.
“No fees, no sports. Period,” he said.
Board member Rory Huff said voting in favor of the fees was difficult, but he was “not willing to let a teacher go so a kid can play softball — education comes first.”
Board chair Barbara Underwood agreed that academics must come first.
Last year, the fees and ticket charges raised enough money to cover the salaries and benefits of two teachers.