Whether they are involved in athletics, band or cheerleading, Canal Winchester high school and middle school students currently are required to pay a $140 fee for each activity in which they participate.

Whether they are involved in athletics, band or cheerleading, Canal Winchester high school and middle school students currently are required to pay a $140 fee for each activity in which they participate.

If voters decide not to renew the school district's three-year, $6.4-million emergency levy on the May 3 ballot, that fee will increase to $300 per activity for the 2011-12 school year, to $450 for 2012-13 and to $600 for 2013-14.

The state's biennium budget is still the unknown factor, however. The increased activity fees were only part of a plan the Canal Winchester Board of Education approved last week that slices $37 million - and 49 jobs - from the district's budget.

Thus, as the school board continues to plan on how it will deal with pending state budget cuts, high school athletics director Kent Riggs said he doesn't know if the student activity fee will increase, regardless of whether the levy passes.

"I can't say what will happen if the levy is renewed," he said. "It's the board's decision, ultimately. The last I heard, they were still waiting on the state numbers and how much the budget cuts would play out, for that (activity fee) to be affected."

He said officials are "hoping that the levy will pass and we won't have to raise fees this much. But you have to have a plan in place if that doesn't happen, and this is what's going to happen (if the levy fails)."

Voters approved a two-year, $6.4-million emergency levy in May 2009, but it expires at the end of 2011.

The emergency levy before voters in May is for 14.78 mills and is expected to generate $6,439,000 per year.

According to district treasurer Joyce Boyer, the levy would cost $469 annually per $100,000 of home value and would not increase the amount that residents currently pay.

"We need to get the message out that we're looking to renew our current levy and that we aren't asking for new money from voters," Riggs said. "In the old days, renewal levies pretty much went through without having to campaign for it, but with the climate we're in now, we'll need to start a pretty good campaign in the next few weeks, and we'll work just as hard to pass it as we did the first time."

However, district officials said on March 21 that even if voters renew the levy, Canal Winchester schools face a shortage of $760,000 next school year, according to projections.

Canal Winchester High School currently offers 19 varsity sports.

According to Riggs, the district had 570 total participants at the high school level and 360 total participants at the middle school level during the 2009-10 school year, including students who participated in multiple activities.

John Bender, the girls track and field and cross country coach at the high school, said an increase in the activity fee would prevent some students from playing.

"This would be devastating for many of our kids because it's hard for some families to pay the $140 fee right now," Bender said. "We've got the whole spectrum in Canal Winchester, from families who live in public housing to very wealthy families.

"It's also very difficult for families who have multiple kids playing sports in our schools," he said. "We've got one family who has three girls in high school and another one in middle school right now."

High school football coach Phil Mauro is concerned that a higher activity fee will discourage athletes from playing more than one sport per school year.

"The one area where you'd maybe see the most effect would be our multi-sport students," Mauro said. "The vast majority of our guys are in two sports, because that's something we really promote here. It would be a shame to see kids have to choose one sport over another, instead of getting the opportunity to play two or three sports that they enjoy."

Riggs, who also is the head coach of the boys basketball team, said losing multiple-sport athletes could weaken some of the talent pool and depth on various teams.

"The more the cost goes up to participate, obviously, the number of participating kids is going to drop in some fashion and you're going to lose some athletes," Riggs said. "We could lose some kids who play two or three sports who might make a decision to play only one or two sports, and that's where it's going to be felt the most from the coaches of these programs."

If the activity fees begin to rise as sharply as projected, Mauro said Canal Winchester's programs will need to organize additional fundraising events to aid the families who can't afford the cost.

"Obviously, this would be a hardship on the great majority of our kids, so we would have to work with them the best we could to give them the opportunity to help fund their participation," Mauro said. "We already do fundraisers that just go into our pool to help pay for different supplies and such for all of our players. For this, we would definitely have to work hard with our athletes to try to figure out some different fundraising activities to offset some of those fees."