The Pickerington Local School District would experience a loss of more than three-quarters of a million dollars annually if pay-to-participate fees are banned statewide, according to district officials.

The Pickerington Local School District would experience a loss of more than three-quarters of a million dollars annually if pay-to-participate fees are banned statewide, according to district officials.

Throughout November, lawmakers at the Ohio Statehouse have discussed whether to participate in extra-curricular activities at public schools should be eliminated.

No legislation has been introduced, but Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has called for the ban to be considered.

Ohio Sen. Cliff Hite, a Republican from Findlay, organized three hearings to discuss "pay-to-participate" fees, as well as other issues such as concussions for young athletes.

Husted said he wants to bring awareness that for low- and some middle-income households, pay-to-participate fees are barriers to extracurricular activities that develop character traits such as teamwork and discipline.

He said evidence shows there are more broken families in Ohio than ever before, and kids need access to extracurricular activities to help them "succeed in life."

He said he hopes districts will abolish the fees on their own.

"Our children are not as prepared for life as they need to be," Husted said.

"We don't need to build a new program, we need to make those programs we have work and be accessible."

If fees are abolished, Pickerington would experience an annual loss of $760,000 in revenue athletes and other students pay to play sports and participate in activities such as band, theater and school clubs, according to district Treasurer Ryan Jenkins.

Jenkins said the fees fund approximately half of the district's costs to provide extracurricular activities each year.

"Unfortunately, we think it's a local decision," he said.

"(If fees are eliminated) we have to decide whether we're going to cut teachers or whether we have to cut athletics.

"Everybody knows what has to win."

Husted countered by stating that $1.52 million is less than 1 percent of Pickerington's $106 million operating budget.

He said he hopes if pay-to-participate fees must be eliminated by the General Assembly, the state will provide greater funding to districts with high percentages of low-income students and the law wouldn't be implemented until 2017 or 2018.

"Most school districts around the state don't charge this fee," Husted said.

"If most schools in the state have found a way to do this, then I believe the talented people in Pickerington can do this, also," he said.

"I want more kids to participate in (extracurriculars) because I really believe it provides the full breath of experiences they need to succeed in life."

Even after reducing pay-to-participate fees the past three years, Pickerington's fees are higher than all but three of 32 schools in the Ohio Capital Conference.

High school students pay $275 per sport, marching band members pay $110 and those in chorale, theater and dance pay $75.

Junior high athletes pay $155 per sport.

Pickerington School Board member Lori Sanders said she thinks the fees remain too high, but said it's unfair to ask local taxpayers -- many of whom don't have students in the district -- to pay more to fund the activities via local levies.

"Obviously, everyone would like to not have any fees," Sanders said.

"The reality is, they were implemented at a time where it was either that or not have any of those activities."

The district has a sliding scale for students who can't afford to pay the full fees.

According to information provided by the district, students who qualify financially could pay as low as $60 to play a high school sport, $30 to march in the high school band, $30 to play a junior high sport and anywhere from $5 to $25 to participate in student clubs, high school dance or theater.

"In general, I don't think we're seeing a decline in the kids who are able to participate," Sanders said.

Sanders does agree with Husted that there's significant worth to maintaining a robust extracurricular program schedule.

"I think we all believe it's really part of education," Sanders said.

"You learn a lot in those areas, not just in the classroom."