A change in the allocation of pay-to-participate fees might be considered for Worthington City Schools, but an increase in those fees is not likely for the near future, according to Superintendent Trent Bowers.

A change in the allocation of pay-to-participate fees might be considered for Worthington City Schools, but an increase in those fees is not likely for the near future, according to Superintendent Trent Bowers.

"I would not support raising the fees on families," Bowers said.

The current allocation of the fees is a 50-50 split -- the district's general fund gets 50 percent of the total athletics participation fees and the high school athletics departments get the other.

The fee is $125 per sport for each high school athlete, capped at $375 per individual.

At least 50 percent of schools in Ohio have athletics and extracurricular-program participation fees, with the average fee around $155, according to Jeff Todd, Worthington Kilbourne High School's athletic director.

Some charge more, such as the Pickerington Local School District, where student athletes pay $275 and the New Albany-Plain Local School District, which raised high school fees to $625 per sport after a levy rejection in 2014, but recently lowered them to $425 per sport.

Board member Julie Keegan asked for a discussion of the fee allocation at the May 23 board meeting.

She said after serving on the Supplemental Program Advisory Committee, she agreed the district needed to allocate more money to athletics programs.

"We all heard the athletic directors last June, where they recommended an adjustment in the budget because of increased costs," she said. "At that time, we discussed increasing pay-to-play fees, but that was not supported, and maybe that is not the way to go.

"I want to allocate 100 percent of the pay-to-play fees to the athletic budget," she said. "It would not make a big difference in the district budget, but would help the athletic departments fill some of their gaps."

Last June, Todd and Scott Dorne, Thomas Worthington's athletics director, said rising costs and decreasing gate receipts and participation fees were affecting athletics budgets.

They said the SPAC committee would like to see a 70-30 split to replace the 50-50 allocation of total participation fees.

Dorne said game officials' fees have increased by $1,000 districtwide in the past two years, and that an increase in economically disadvantaged students meant more students were paying a reduced participation fee or none at all.

He said 9.5 percent of students were determined as economically disadvantaged in 2008, but that number increased to 25.3 percent in 2014.

In 2008, the athletics budgets received $158,206 in participation-fee revenue, compared to $131,038 in 2014.

Keegan said she has also heard from parents that some sports might not be getting the financial support they need.

"The athletic directors told us that even if we did the 70-30 split, it would only return them to the standard they had in 2008," she said. "We know the gaps are out there -- the lacrosse team did not have enough to pay for jerseys so a parent had to step in and pay for them."

Board member Charlie Wilson said the fees should be eliminated in favor of the athletics budgets becoming a part of the general-fund budget.

"Everything a first-rate school does should be first-rate," he said. "If we can't afford to offer a sport in a first-rate fashion, we should not offer it.

"I strongly support eliminating the fee when we can afford to do so," he said.

Sam Shim, the board vice president, said he didn't see an issue with changing the allocation.

"We could change the allocation to 70 percent or even 100 percent," he said. "It would not make us cut programs or affect us academically."

Board President Marc Schare suggested "taking a holistic view and looking at current athletic budget needs."

Bowers pointed out that the discussion might need to cover all extracurricular programs, not just athletics.

"Some costs also depend on when expenses occur," he said. "For example, do you replace uniforms every five years or sooner?"

Keegan said the district is asking athletics directors to manage more sports on less money.

"I don't think that this is sustainable and does not lead to the type of experiences we want our athletes to have," she said.

Board members agreed more discussion was needed and Bowers said he would ask the treasurer's department to go over the extracurricular accounts.

"We could then come back with a recommendation at a future school board meeting," he said.