CCHS may raise student athletic fees

Concord-Carlisle Superintendent Laurie Hunter is recommending raising athletic fees at the high school from $200 to $300 per student, per sport, with a family cap of $1,200. Members of the Regional School Committee (RSC)  considered Hunter’s proposal during their February 27 meeting. At CCHS, 789 out of 1,257 in-district students participate on 62 teams within 29 different sports.

Hunter estimated that the funds generated from the increase could be up to $100,000, some or all of which could be applied to the operating budget. The fee was last increased in 2010 from $125 with a $375 cap. Fees for other schools in the Dual County League (of which CCHS is a member) range from $0 to $365 with family caps ranging from $0 to $1,500. Some schools adjust the fee based on the sport. 

RSC member Melissa McMorrow observed that the proposed fee would put CCHS near the high end of schools in the league. Hunter agreed, saying it was a purposeful decision. She thought it would be better to raise the fee now and leave it at that level for five years rather than raise it a smaller amount every year or two. 

RSC member Heather Bout thought that the $1,200 family cap seemed high and suggested increasing it by 50% to $900 rather than doubling the cap. Hunter agreed to get more information, including how many families would hit the cap, for the next meeting. 

The student athletic fees generated $234,000 which go into the Athletic Revolving Fund. The total income for the revolving fund is $280,500 which includes the student fees, ticket sales ($33,000) and miscellaneous fees ($13,500). This year, $115,000 from the revolving fund was used to subsidize the athletic program’s operating budget of $574,692. 

RSC members wondered if the athletic program should directly benefit from the increased fees. It was noted that with the current budget pressures, all programs at CCHS are at risk of experiencing cuts; the increased athletic fee would help protect against that. RSC member Wally Johnston wondered if a percentage of the increase could stay within the program to address unmet needs. According to Hunter, it will be up to the RSC to decide how the additional estimated $100,000 should be allocated. 

It was noted that students on the alpine ski team have to pay the $200 fee as well as buy a $400 season pass to Nashoba Valley. Hunter said that CCHS Principal Mike Mastrullo and Athletic Director Barry Haley advised her against looking at individual sports cost because it can be very challenging and divisive, but said she would dig in if that is what the RSC wants. Bout suggested that a better question would be, “Is there a more efficient way to budget in athletics?” rather than direct the administration to look at the numbers sport by sport.

RSC Chair Dan Conti asked about families who cannot afford to pay more. Hunter explained that the process is the same for families who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program—they pay on a graduated fee scale, including a complete waiver from the fee for some. Deputy Superintendent John Flaherty pointed out that by increasing the fee, the demand for assistance could go up. Bout noted that increasing the fees would generate $100,000 and if it would only be an extra few thousand to cover financial aid the increase is still worth it.  Hunter agreed, adding, “None of this is about excluding kids from sports.”

Hunter said she learned a lot going through the process adding, “Who knew we had a squash team?” Bout suggested they put the overall athletic budget on the list of things to look at next year. ∆