GFPS considering increased athletic fees to offset some budget shortages

Great Falls Public Schools is considering increases to the athletic participation fees in an effort to increase revenue to help offset general fund budget shortages.

During the June 10 school board meeting, staff presented the proposal, which will come back for action during the June 24 meeting.

Currently, for high school sports, the fee is $30 for the first sport, $20 for the second sport and no fee for the third sport.

The district is looking at changing the fees to $40 for the first sport, $30 for the second sport and no fee for the third sport.

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That would generate an estimated $12,242 in additional revenue for high school sports to help cover costs related to travel and coaching stipends, according to GFPS.

For middle school, the current fees are $20, $15 and 0 for the first, second and third sport respectively. The proposed fees are $25, $20 and 0, which would generate an estimated $4,353 in additional revenue, according to GFPS.

To encourage students participating in multiple sports, the district is proposing to keep the discounted rate for the second and third sports.

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“We believe in kids participating in activities,” Brian Patrick told the board. He’s the director of business operations for GFPS.

The fees haven’t been adjusted since they were established 25 years ago, Superintendent Tammy Lacey told the board.

Kim Skornogoski, school board member, said this was an example of the district having to pull up couch cushions and scrounge for change to deal with budget shortages.

Gordon Johnson, a new school board member, said it was “astounding” that the fees had increased in 25 years.

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GFPS Athletic Director, Mike Henneberg, said they looked at fees at schools statewide and realities of the local district.

“Our costs have increased exponentially,” he said. “But nobody likes that we have to charge for things, but that’s the reality we live in.”

Hennenberg said they want to keep the fees affordable so students can still participate and there are some scholarships available.

The district doesn’t want cost to be a barrier to participation, he said, so they were proposing the modest increases to help generate some revenue while not pricing students out of athletics.

The athletic programs also do other forms of fundraising to offset uniforms and other costs, Lacey said.

For the 2018-2019 school year, there were 1,332 participants in sports.

To make revenue projections, the district assumed that all 588 fall participants were in their first sport; two-thirds of winter athletes were competing in their second sport; a third of winter athletes were participating in their first sport; 25 percent of spring athletes were participating in their third sport; 40 percent of spring athletes were playing their second sport; and 35 percent of spring athletes were playing their first sport.

According to GFPS, Butte, Kalispell and Missoula provide a family camp based on multiple athletes competing at one school at one time.