As soon as next year, a local school district will need to consider whether to charge student athletes a fee for the buses they ride to games and competitions.
A five-year, $1 million sponsorship agreement between Center Grove schools and Ray Skillman runs out next year. That money was used to pay the transportation costs for student athletes so the district would not have to charge families fees, as some local districts do.
Right now, officials aren’t sure what they will do once the money from the sponsorship runs out, including whether students will be charged a fee, Center Grove High School athletic director Jon Zwitt said.
Two local school districts, Edinburgh and Franklin, charge a fee.
The money pays most of the expenses of taking teams to and from away games. The bulk of the money goes for the bus driver and fuel, which can amount to thousands of dollars each year.
Fees might not cover all of the athletic transportation costs for a school district, but they typically pay for most of them. How much families pay is based on how much it costs to drive athletes to events and how much money the school district can put toward that cost.
Franklin schools, for example, charges high school athletes $30 per year for each sport they participate in, and middle school athletes are charged $15. Last year, transporting high school and middle school athletes cost $35,244. The athletes’ transportation fees generated $24,170. The remainder was covered through the school’s transportation fund, according to Jeff Mercer, executive director of finance for Franklin schools.
In 2010, each fee was raised by $5, but the assessments have stayed the same since then because the amounts have been reasonable for most of the athletes’ families, said John Regas, director of athletics for Franklin Community Schools.
Edinburgh Community High School was able to cut its fee for athletes in half after receiving a $2,500 donation in February 2014 from the Cliff Simpson Memorial Ride, an annual motorcycle ride event organized by Cliff’s Bar and Grill in Edinburgh, which raises money for school programs and a scholarship for a local high school senior.
That meant families paid $10 for each athlete per sport. Next year, the fee will return to $20, said David Walden, athletics director for Edinburgh Community Schools. Sometimes booster clubs for a specific sport will raise enough money to cover the team’s transportation costs, meaning the athletes playing that sport will not have to pay a fee, Walden said.
In total, Edinburgh Community High School’s athlete transportation costs are $7,000 per year. The school has about 200 athletes, and transportation fees bring in $4,000 to $5,000 each year, Walden said. The rest can be covered through the district’s transportation fund.
Keeping the transportation fee as low as possible is important so that most students’ families can afford them. For Franklin, the $30 and $15 transportation fees have worked well for most athletes, Regas said.
“We re-evaluated the fee this summer, and we want to keep it as low as possible for the athletes,” he said. “It might go up eventually, but we don’t see a change in the foreseeable future.”
Edinburgh also has no plans to increase its transportation fee in the near future, thanks especially to this year’s lower fuel costs, Walden said.
If a fee is ever too high for a student, though, it won’t necessarily exclude them from participation, he said.
“If any of the athletes have a problem meeting the fee amount, I’ll usually sit down the parents,” he said. “We’ll work something out.”
Other local school districts have discussed charging athletes fees for transportation in the past, but administrators say that isn’t necessary right now.
Clark-Pleasant pays for transportation costs for its 400 to 500 athletes out of general funds, money from sponsors and ticket sales.
“We have a great school system that, so far, doesn’t charge us for transportation,” said Ken Sears, athletic director for Whiteland Community High School. “The school board sees the value of our athletic programs and doesn’t want to put the burden on the athletes.”
Greenwood Schools has talked about charging transportation fees for athletes in the past but hasn’t needed to in recent years, Superintendent Kent DeKoninck said. The total athlete transportation cost from last year was $34,100, which was paid out of the school district’s transportation fund, he said.
”We’ve talked about a little bit as something we might need to do at some point, but it’s never gotten to the level of talking to the school board about it,” DeKoninck said. “We don’t have any intention of charging fees any time soon.”
Two local school districts charge athletes a transportation fee for each sport played to help cover the costs of bus travel to and from games:
High school athletes: $30 per sport
Middle school athletes: $15 per sport
High school athletes: $20 per sport
Center Grove High School
No fee, cost covered by sponsorship with Ray Skillman through 2016