The South-Western City Schools Board of Education on Sept. 28 heard details of a proposed pay-to-play plan that could return extracurricular activities to the district.

The South-Western City Schools Board of Education on Sept. 28 heard details of a proposed pay-to-play plan that could return extracurricular activities to the district.

Deputy Superintendent Phil Warner presented the plan, and explained the fee structure is based on passage of the permanent 7.4-mill levy on the Nov. 3 ballot. Elimination of extracurriculars was among cuts taking effect after an 8.3-mill levy failed in May and August.

No time frame was discussed during the meeting.

District spokesperson Sandy Nekoloff said Tuesday if the plan and levy are approved, extracurriculars and winter sports would return as soon as possible.

The pay-to-play proposal would set fees for high school athletics at $150 per participant per sport, $100 per participant in the marching band, $75 per student per sport in the middle schools and $20 per student per club activity. No family fee cap was presented.

Board member Randy Reisling called on district officials to prepare a fee cap by the Oct. 12 meeting, during which members are expected to take action on a proposal.

"I'm concerned about a squeeze put on families," he said.

Reisling also asked officials to consider exempting from the fees students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

The 21,000-student district, seventh-largest in the state, has made $22-million in cuts in the past two years and faces a mounting deficit, officials say.

The Nov. 3 levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $227 a year and generate about $18.5-million annually.

If the pay-to-play plan is adopted, school officials estimate it would generate about $440,000 a year if 4,122 students participate, the same number as last year.

If participation falls 15 percent, about $378,000 would be generated annually, Warner said.

Fees likely will creep higher if the board decides to go with a proposal that includes a fee cap for families, officials said after the meeting.

"We wanted to be able to maintain current programs (and see) what is the tipping point for students and parents to no longer participate," Warner said.

Jill Billman-Royer, who has three children in the school system, said after the meeting that she favors a fee cap for families. She said she could live with the fee structure presented at the meeting, even though school officials acknowledged it would put South-Western as the second-highest for fees among Franklin County school districts. Fourteen other districts in the county collect pay-to-play fees.

"I think (the fees are) a good compromise," Billman-Royer said. "I think anything lower than what was presented doesn't make enough of a dent in the budget. I think anything higher would really reduce participation levels."

In a related matter, district Treasurer Hugh W. Garside Jr. discussed the three-step process by which the state places a school district in fiscal emergency.

If levy failures continue, South-Western would go into fiscal emergency in 2012, Garside said, and the district would face a deficit of more than $30-million.

Under fiscal emergency, the district must implement a financial recovery plan approved by the state or face having the state put a process in place to run the district's finances.

"It's not the state coming to save the day," Reisling noted after questioning Garside about the process. "It's the state saying, 'Your only option out of this is passing a levy.'"