Sports will return in some degree to the Northridge Local School District, but at no cost to the district.

Sports will return in some degree to the Northridge Local School District, but at no cost to the district.

When a 1-percent income tax levy was voted down for the third time May 3, the school board said all extracurricular activities would be eliminated to allow the district to balance its budget. But on May 23, boosters proposed a plan to pay for athletics through pay-to-participate fees and donations.

Wayne Howard, who is both athletics director and the athletics boosters president, said the school board voted 5-0 in favor of the self-sufficiency plan.

"The money will come from a combination of places in order to assure the board and voters that we can do this at no cost to them," Howard said. "We have to do what we think is best for the students and bring back athletics. Right now, we're working on bringing them back on a per-season basis, but hopefully we can bring back enough to pay for all of them."

The fee to participate in high school athletics will be $500 per athlete per sport, up from $125 in the 2010-11 school year. Middle school athletes will pay $250, up from $50.

"We have to pay for everything involved with a sport, including paying the custodians, the transportation, the insurance, the utilities such as electricity and water for an event, even paper and paper clips we would use," Howard said. "When you figure it, there are a lot of nickel-and-dime items that add up quickly. It's going to take a concerted effort from the athletic boosters and the parents as well as support from family and friends."

The Vikings have six fall sports: cheerleading, cross country, football, boys golf, boys soccer and girls volleyball. There is a chance that all will have seasons, but also the possibility that one or more might not have enough participants to fund the program. Howard said the approximate numbers needed to ensure sufficient funds are 45 for football, 25 for soccer, 23 for volleyball and 12 for golf. Cross country would need a combined 24, or 12 each for the boys and girls teams. Cheerleading also would need 24 participants.

"These numbers are approximate because if you have 47 football players and 23 soccer players, then it will average out. The fees won't go to just one specific sport, but into one account for all of the sports," Howard said. "And probably around Aug. 1 is when we will know which sports will have the funding.

"In the past, parents could pay fees during the season, but we will have a meeting a week or so before (Aug. 1) to collect those to help us figure things out. Also, we are discussing reduced costs for multiple sports, but nothing has been finalized, and I don't know if that will actually happen."

Howard said state law dictates that the school district had to write the check for extracurricular activities, but the athletics boosters would supply the money for those expenses.

"By state law, the board has to pay for the coaches and other expenses, so what happens is we will write them a check in the general fund for the coaches," Howard said. "Since the coaches receive their checks from the board, then the district still will do the hiring, as in the past."

Howard said it was important to pay the coaches because of their time commitment and the financial support they also give their programs.

"We still might lose some coaches, but I think it's important to pay them," he said. "Most coaches take the money they make and put it back into the program in some way, so that helps our costs. Also, you figure in the hours that coaches put in, most of them make at or below minimum wage, so it really is an investment in the kids."

Creston King, a member of the athletics boosters and an assistant baseball coach, said programs might have fundraisers to lessen the cost per sport.

"I think it a sad situation, but it's the situation we're in," King said. "I know some of our coaches are putting together programs and trying to get summer activities to defer the cost in some way. It's a tough situation."

Howard said the boosters also were open to donations from individuals and businesses to fund specific sports, events or games, or as a general donation to athletics.

"We're interested in business and/or individuals who can support or even something like announcing, 'Tonight's game or match is sponsored by whomever,'" he said. "Those costs of games have not been set yet, but it's something we're working on."

Howard said interested businesses or individuals can contact him during school hours at (740) 967-6651.

A meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, in the high school gym to discuss the subject and answer questions.

"All the fall parents wanting to know more about the program and what we are doing should attend," he said. "But also parents of athletes in winter and spring sports are welcome to attend and hopefully I will able to answer their questions then."