Parents expressed their displeasure about the pay-to-participate fees for student band members at Groveport Madison Schools, particularly as they apply to middle school and junior high students.
Those opposing the fee believe it will discourage student participation in band.
"Band is the only thing that works in this district," said district resident Karla Lindic at the Groveport Madison Board of Education’s Sept. 13 meeting. "Why are you messing with it?"
Lindic said participating in band helps students academically as well as making them more well rounded people.
Parent Deb Woody said, "We approved the levy (in August), but now we feel betrayed."
Last May, the board unanimously approved the following pay-to-participate fees effective for the 2012-13 school year:
•$150 per each activity for high school fall, winter, or spring athletic sport and cheerleading;
•$100 per each activity for high school or junior high/middle school as follows – junior high/middle school athletics, junior high/middle school cheerleading; choir, Cruiserettes, marching/pep band, and theater/drama;
•$25 per each activity for high school or junior high/middle school as follows: student council, school newspaper, National Honor Society, mock trial, Spanish club, and yearbook.
Students on the free and reduced lunch program are not excused from paying the pay-to-participate fees.
The previous fees were $75 per high school activity and $50 per junior high/middle school activity. These old fees did not include clubs.
School officials stated last spring that the fees would remain in place even if the August levy passed. Had the levy not passed, the board would have had to consider doubling the fees in November for the remainder of 2012-13 to make up for the shortfall and that all extracurricular activities would have had to have been eliminated in 2013-14.
At the Sept. 13 board meeting, Superintendent Bruce Hoover said the district was informed it will receive less in tax revenues due to delinquent property tax payments by property owners in the district.
Groveport Madison Treasurer Tony Swartz said that, according to the Franklin County Auditor’s Office, the delinquent real estate taxes for Groveport Madison, after the August real estate settlement, are $2.5 million for the 2012 collections. The 2011 delinquent real estate taxes were $1.9 million.
"This is an increase (in delinquent property taxes) of $643,491," said Swartz. "Certainly this has an affect on operations here at Groveport Madison and will have to be considered in the budget and forecast that will be presented at the October board meeting. As far as (potential) additional cuts, they would be determined going forward."
Hoover said the school district community as a whole is not supportive of additional school expenditures.
"Given our financial condition, we will work to cut costs, redirect expenses and find other revenue sources," said Hoover.
Hoover said the goal is to make extracurricular programs sustainable for the long term.
Hover noted the fee for band participation helps offset annual direct costs of more than $55,000 for the band program.
"I understand the value of band and music. We love our band program," said Hoover. "We’re just trying to be fiscally responsible.
Revising the band fee
Hoover met with parents, board members, community members, band directors and band boosters to help find a solution to the band pay-to-participate fees.
He said the band pay-to-participate fees will remain at $100 per student to reduce band direct costs, but that for the 2012-13 school year, band students in grades 6-8 will have $50 of their fee paid by the band program through a reduction in their instrument and supply budget equal to the amount necessary (approximately $15,000). Band parents will be given until the end of the first grading period to pay fees in full. All band students in grades 6-12 will be assessed a $100 pay-to-participate fee for 2013-14 and beyond.
Additionally, Hoover said a committee comprised of the band directors, band booster leadership and himself will meet quarterly to identify ways to reduce costs and create alternative family support through the booster organization.
District fee comparisons
Hoover said pay-to-participate fees are on the rise in most area schools. He said the average pay-to-participate fee for high schools in the Ohio Capital Conference (OCC), of which Groveport Madison is a member of the Ohio Division, is $159.
According to Hoover, Groveport Madison’s fees are lower than many of the schools in the OCC Ohio Division. Pay-to-participate fees in other OCC Ohio Division schools are: Pickerington Central and Pickerington North, $375 for high school, 195 for middle school; Reynoldsburg, $345 for high school and middle school; Gahanna, $200 for high school and $100 for middle school; Newark, $200 for high school and middle school; Grove City, $150 for high school and $75 for middle school; and Lancaster, $100 for high school and $65 for middle school.