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Financial shortfall may stir up new fees at NKSD

POULSBO — One of the few remaining school districts in the area to do so, North Kitsap students can participate in extracurricular activities, from baseball to band, free of charge.

With impending district-wide budget cuts on the horizon, however, that is likely to change.

With a looming shortfall between $500,000 to $1 million for the 2005-06 school year, athletics and activities are set to absorb around $60,000 in cuts.

Combined with increases in the cost of fuel, which sports and activities rely upon to compete away from home, the school board will either have to cut services or establish a new revenue stream. Opting for the latter would see North Kitsap join the vast majority of schools that have already done so to avoid being in the red. “Budgets are being affected around the nation,” said North Kitsap High School Athletic Director Al Gleich. “The consensus seems to be that everyone having budget problems is going to a pay to play format.”

In the immediate area are several examples. South Kitsap High School has a $35 “transportation fee.” Gig Harbor High has $65 fee for sports and $25 fee for activities. Olympia and Capital high schools will initiate a $75 fee next year. North Kitsap’s neighbor across Agate Pass, Bainbridge, has been charging $95 per sport.

Just who to charge — and how much — is the subject of a community committee on athletics and activities that aims to give a formal recommendation to the school board May 12.

The primary fear the committee has is that “pay to play” will cause a decline in sports and activities involvement.

As far as sports are concerned, roughly 25 percent of all high school students are also athletes and more than 50 percent of all Kingston and Poulsbo junior high school students are involved in sports.

“If you do this, how do you know how it’s going to affect what is an over 50 percent rate of participation,” questioned Rick West, an NKHS parent on the committee.

A balance was advocated by most members of the committee, each acknowledging that a fee too high would deter participation, yet one too low wouldn’t dent the shortfall enough.

“I feel we need to keep it reasonable and low, and ease the community into it,” said Lael Stock, a parent. “Seventy-five dollars would be a shock. Keep it low enough and let’s see what happens.”

KJH athletic director Bob Good wanted a scale created to keep sports costs higher than activities, as well as high school costs more than those of junior high. He also advocated a maximum price for families to help keep the expense from becoming exorbitant.

If the NKSD can’t eliminate the budget gap by raising revenues, then expenditures must be cut, the main area being discussed is transportation.

The district could cut activity bus service, or consolidate it to include less stops. It could also limit the distances to which each team or activity could travel to compete. Capital and Olympia high schools, for instance, have limited their squads’ regular season “travel area” to a 65-mile limit for the varsity and 35 miles for the junior varsity.

The committee has come to consensus on three things for their upcoming recommendation for the board: the price will be known as a “co-curricular fee,” that will be installed for the 2005-06 school year at the junior high and high school level and will be limited — for now — to next year.

“Let’s be tangible, keep it simple,” said Irv Shotwell, a track coach at Poulsbo Junior High School. “And let’s only lock it in for one year.”

The committee wants to hear thoughts on their recommendation at a public meeting, 6:30 p.m. May 2 at the NKHS gym.

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