BG pay-to-participate fees going directly to athletics

The Bowling Green City Schools Board of Education has approved moving high school athletic pay-to-participate fees to be under the direction of the athletic director.

The action took place at the regular board meeting on Tuesday with a motion from board vice president Ryan Myers, and seconded by board member Norman Geer, which passed by a vote of 4-1, with board member Tracy Hovest voting against the change.

According to Treasurer Cathy Schuller, prior to the vote, the pay-to-participate fees were part of the general fund, which could be used for non-athletic purposes.

Athletic director Michele Wolf said that the total fees came to around $50,000 last year. In previous non-COVID years, board member Ginny Stewart said that came to about $60,000.

“I firmly believe that Michele is the right person to get this ship turned around,” Myers said. “I guess, fundamentally for me, if I’m paying $75, I don’t want that going into the district general fund. I want that going to the betterment of all athletics. It’s just a fundamental thing for me.”

Geer asked Wolf why the change would be a good idea.

She called last year’s operation “fairly bare bones.”

“Thankfully, with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds we were able to purchase one set of uniforms, instead of two or three, in rotation. Without those ESSER funds I would have been grossly in the hole,” Wolf said.

The athletic department used approximately $30,000 in ESSER funds, which are a one-time option. The ESSER program was created by the federal government Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Some of the things that they would be trying to find funding for include fees, game workers, general equipment and paying for officials.

This has been an ongoing discussion with the administration, for which Wolf put together a five-year athletic plan. Schuller said that there are some abatement funds which could be used to help with the athletic department needs.

“Basically this comes down to a philosophy or a budget issue,” Schuller said. “If it’s a philosophy of how you want to see the funding flow through, as a parent, that’s one thing. The other item would be the budget item.

“Do you want to increase that budget by $60,000, or whatever participation is for a given year? Pretty much, at the end of the day, the general fund is going to subsidize athletics. We can’t end the year in the red. So if we put the fees in, and increase it by $60,000, and that all is spent, essentially you are going to add even more.”

She was asked for her recommendation.

‘I guess I don’t know what the problem is we’re trying to fix. So my recommendation would be to keep it as it is and address those items on the five-year plan with other funding,” Schuller said.

Myers brought up the common saying “that’s just BG,” which he said he hears when deficiencies in athletics are brought up in conversation, when compared to other schools.

“I probably shouldn’t say what I’m about to say, but I’m just going to say it,” Myers said. “When I walk out to the baseball or softball field and I see what we have out there, and I try to experience what other visiting teams experience, when our tennis courts flood on dry days, when I see our freshman boys basketball team wearing varsity uniforms from 10 years ago, made for 17 and 18-year-olds, when they are 15 years old, I see an issue that we can address, athletically.

“I just know that by doing this, those things get immediately addressed,” Myers said. “That’s not acceptable to me and I know it’s not acceptable to Michele. I know it makes her sick and it makes me sick, when I go to these things and hear these things.”

He reiterated that it is a philosophy issue for him and recognized that there are other needs in the district, but pointed out that he was advocating for the change because he is on the athletic committee.

“We are light years behind, just to catch up to other teams,” Myers said.

He compli mented Wolf for the new programs she has initiated, calling her “one of the best in the area.”

Stewart confirmed with Schuller that the motion proposed by Myers was legal.

“On this particular issue, I see the athletic facilities in great disrepair, across the board, and something needs to be done, and I have confidence in Michele to do it,” Geer said.

Hovest was the lone vote against the change.

She said that there are buildings that also need to be addressed. She also asked about other program’s pay-to-participate fees and what might happen to them down the road. Hovest also added that she supported the athletic funding, but not the change being voted on.

The motion directed the treasurer to create a separate athletic fund with 100% of the pay-to-participate fees for athletics, where the athletic director would have decision-making control to support and use it over all the athletic programs.