Since the failure of Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools' 6.8-mill operating levy in November, coaches and athletics administrators throughout the district have been preparing for what seemed to be the inevitable repercussion.

Since the failure of Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools' 6.8-mill operating levy in November, coaches and athletics administrators throughout the district have been preparing for what seemed to be the inevitable repercussion.

The way Gahanna athletics director Justin Sanford sees it, the overall hit that middle and high school athletics took earlier this month could have been much worse.

Beginning with the 2011-12 school year, high school athletes must pay participation fees of $200 per sport; middle school athletes will have to pay $100 per sport.

"Obviously, nobody wants it," Sanford said. "We started working on this back in the fall in preparation for the November levy, and when that was unsuccessful, we were fortunate that our administration was willing to look at $200."

In addition to the pay-to-participate fees that were approved March 10, the school board approved $6-million in personnel cuts, including the elimination of 32 teachers. More than $1-million is being cut from the building/administration budgets for utilities, supplies, field trips, technology and classroom materials, as well.

"(The pay-to-participate fees) should be a savings of about $200,000 for the district," Sanford said. "That's a significant savings when you're talking about laying off teachers."

If a 5.2-mill levy passes May 3, Sanford said, athletes who play multiple sports could benefit.

An athlete who competes in each of the three sports seasons would pay $200 for a fall sport and $100 for a winter sport but would pay nothing for a spring sport. A cap of $500 per family also could be established.

For middle school athletes, the cost could be $100 for the first sport and $50 for the second, with the third being free.

"I know (the pay-to-participate fee) goes into effect next year, and I have not heard anybody complain about it," softball coach Jim Campolo said. "I think most people are kind of to a point where they know things are going to happen whether they complain about them or not. It could be a lot worse."

Gahanna currently offers 26 varsity sports and 48 junior varsity and club sports.

According to Sanford, Gahanna-Jefferson had 746 individual athletes and 1,026 total participants last year, including the same athlete in multiple sports.

Gahanna is one of just four schools in the 32-school Ohio Capital Conference that currently does not have pay-to-participate fees. The others are Thomas Worthington, Worthington Kilbourne and Delaware.

Sanford said he believes such sports as baseball, basketball and soccer likely wouldn't see much lower participation because those athletes' families are used to paying fees to play for club and travel teams. The effect on football, which does not have AAU competition, remains to be seen, he said.

According to football coach John Snoad, the 105 athletes who are involved with his program recently participated in a meat-sales fundraiser. In the past, money from the school's annual winter fundraiser was used to buy equipment and to take care of other fees associated with the football program. During this winter's three-week fundraiser, Snoad said, football players had the ability to lower or eliminate their pay-to-participate fees by meeting a sales quota. A separate fundraiser will be held in August to directly benefit the football program.

"Nobody likes pay-to-play, including the district board members who put it in place," Snoad said. "We've always sold gourmet meat and chicken as a fundraiser, and it has been really good income for the program.

"We set this one up so that it could help eliminate the pay-to-participate fee. A lot of the kids have told me that they already have gotten their fee taken care of. Some opt out (of participating in the sale), but at least they have the option," he said.

"There are also some sacrifices we're making, such as the fact that we're not going to be going away for a team camp and that our banquets will be less elaborate," Snoad said. "We're going to do anything we can to make it easier for the parents."