High school activity funds source still iffy

Posted: Friday, February 01, 2008

A task force assigned to come up with a way to make high school sports and other extra-curricular programs equally available to all students continued to wrestle Thursday with how to fund next year's $2.2 million estimated price tag for school activities.

"Our goal is to try to make sure that we allow as much access and across-the-board participation as possible," said task force Facilitator Vance Sanders, in an earlier interview.

The task force, which includes a Juneau School Board member, a Juneau Assembly member and other private citizens, was formed in response to community concern that the fundraising demands for some student athletes had become too onerous. One report found fundraising accounted for $1.4 million out of the $1.8 million total spent on activities last year. The report said football players or their parents had to raise $1,450; the price tag to play hockey was $1,000 per student.

The task force's likely recommendation will include asking for more public dollars from the Juneau School District as well as from the city, while including some private fundraising dollars.

The problem is how much.

The city would have to increase its revenues if it wanted to kick in big bucks to high school activities.

"If it's a big amount, then sales tax is probably the only option," said task force member Reed Stoops.

But Assembly member Jeff Bush had said earlier the city would likely balk at any attempt to raise taxes.

After the meeting, some task force members said it was unlikely they would ask the city for a sales tax increase, but they said the option was still on the table.

The Juneau School District has already allocated $407,600 toward activities for next year, but preliminary budget projections show that the district could have as little as $400,000 in extra cash to spend, and already has other, district-wide requests that total $5.2 million.

Task force member Amy Skilbred said she was interested in seeing what additional funds become available as the School Board's budgeting process moved forward. She advocated a rough formula of the district paying for half the activities fees, the city paying for one quarter, and private funds paying for the other quarter, plus any additional funds that are required after the $2.2 million total is met.

The task force's next meeting is scheduled for noon, Feb. 11 at Juneau-Douglas High School.

• Contact reporterAlan Suderman at 523-2268 or alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.

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