Northridge school district families can expect to pay a reduction in their kids' pay-to-play fees if the five-year, 9.9-mill emergency operating levy passes in May.

Northridge school district families can expect to pay a reduction in their kids' pay-to-play fees if the five-year, 9.9-mill emergency operating levy passes in May.

The board of education agreed last Monday night that, if the issue is approved, fees would revert to $125 per sport at the high school with a $375 family cap. Middle school students would pay $50 per sport.

Superintendent John Shepard said those amounts will be his recommendation for board action at the next regular meeting, set for 7 p.m. Monday, March 16.

Pay to participate fees increased this spring to $275 per student at the high school and $125 at the middle school, with no family cap.

Treasurer Felicia Drummey said the higher fee structure was intended exclusively for this spring to take pressure off the district's dwindling general fund.

"Although next year will be a year of walking the line, we could go back to the fee structure," she said. "I think fees should be evaluated annually. I think we would be fine if we reinstated the old fees."

Consensus among the administration and board is to go back to the $125 per sport at the high school with a family cap and increase the middle school's former participation fee of $25 to $50 to cover increased transportation costs.

In other board discussion, Shepard and Drummey reviewed a staffing analysis conducted by the Ohio Department of Education.

"We volunteered ourselves for the analysis," Shepard said. "It shows how we rate with comparable districts. They affirmed what we already know. It's an example of how we do more with less."

Drummey said the analysis compares Northridge to 20 similar districts in Ohio.

The analysis shows Northridge employs five fewer teachers than comparable districts, and has 27 fewer staff positions than similar districts.

Measurements that were considered for comparison included average daily membership; percentage of district in professional occupations; median income; percent of population with a college degree or more; percent of agricultural property; population density and minority students, among others.

"Without question, I'm even more proud of what we've been able to do," Drummey said. "We're over 30 positions less than school districts of our size, and we're looking at 15 more (to cut) if the levy fails."

Board president Troy Willeke said the district has not only been forced to "cut into the muscle" with reductions but, he said, "We've amputated a significant limb."

When comparing the district to others in the state, Northridge is most similar to Clinton-Massie Local in Clinton County, according to the report.

Northridge is considered third most similar to Centerburg Local in Knox County and sixth most similar to Johnstown-Monroe.

"We're not as similar to Johnstown as a lot of people believe," Drummey said.

Of the 20 most comparable districts, Northridge had the highest median income of $38,691.

It also has the highest percentage of agricultural property -- 23.5 percent.

It had the third highest percentage of the population with college degrees at 25 percent, behind Manchester Local in Summit County at 25.9 percent and Wayne Local in Warren County at 28.8 percent.

When comparing cost per pupil, Northridge spent $201 less than similar districts and $1,832 less than the state average at $8,107 per pupil in fiscal year 2008. The state average for the same year was $9,939.

In board action, a resolution was approved to sell the Hartford Elementary School and its grounds to the village of Hartford for $6,001.

Hartford Mayor Jim Piper was out of town and unavailable to comment about the purchase, but the resolution states the building and grounds would be an asset to the greater Hartford community "for recreation, entertainment and other uses."

A contract was also approved with the Licking Area Computer Association to be the district's Internet provider at a cost of $48,828 for next school year.

Drummey was also appointed as treasurer of the district for a term of three years beginning on Aug. 1 and continuing through July 31, 2012. The terms of that contract are expected to be decided at a later date.

The board also accepted a $9,122 donation by the Lawncare Company LLC for salt, calcium and plowing the school parking lots from December 2008 through Feb. 3.