BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Delano students who participate in three activities will no longer get the third activity for free, but students receiving free lunch will now be able to participate in activities for free. The school board approved the changes on a 4-2 vote, with directors Carolyn Milano and Rachel Depa opposed to charging full price for the third activity.
Fees for middle school athletics and high school drama and athletics will increase by $35 each, to $135 and $185, respectively; the family maximum for athletics will increase by $200 to $800; and fees for non-sport activities will increase by $25 to $75 each.
Activity fees for students receiving reduced-price lunches will decrease, from $50 to $48 for middle school athletes, and from $75 to $65 for high school athletes and drama participants.
As discussion began Monday, Milano moved to amend the motion to waive the fee for the third activity.
“Why would we take away an incentive?” Milano asked. “ . . . We need to keep those students involved and engaged in school as learners. Sports and drama play a big role in that.”
Her motion failed due to lack of a second.
Depa moved to amend the motion to make the fee for the third sport $75. Milano seconded the motion, which failed on a 2-4 vote.
“If you’re playing a third sport, you should pay something toward it,” Depa said, adding, “Three sport-athletes deserve an incentive.”
Director Al Briesmeister said he had heard many parents say they did not mind paying for the third activity, with some wondering why it was waived in the first place.
Director Corey Black identified himself as one of those parents.
“My son golfed 20 rounds of golf for free,” Black said. “I don’t know how anyone thinks that is fair to people who don’t have students playing athletics. Paying the full fee for all three sports seems reasonable to me.”
Director Lisa Seguin also spoke in favor of the increases.
“It’s never popular to raise fees,” Seguin said. “I wish we had enough money in the general education formula to cover all the costs, but we don’t . . . While I don’t love the fact we have to do fees, I think it’s a far better alternative than having to cut programs or eliminate students from participating. I think we’d be taking away more opportunities for students if we don’t raise fees.”
Superintendent Matt Schoen noted activity fees had not been increased for six years, despite adding more activities.
“There is a recommendation to increase fees for high school and middle school activities . . . to help with the costs of providing these opportunities for our students,” Schoen said. “If we mapped it out over the last six years, it would be $5.83 per year.”
He also noted that most districts do not provide the third sport for free or for a discounted rate.
Black reminded his colleagues that the funding for activities has to come from somewhere.
“If parents who have students in sports don’t pick up the tab, it means our taxpayers are,” Black said.
For fiscal year 2017, activity expenses were $998,964. Of that amount, $355,202 came from revenue like activity fees and $100,360 in admissions, while the district covered the remaining $643,762.
Black called the activity fee increase a stopgap, and said the board needs to discuss how to better fund activities in the future, such as requiring revenue to cover a third, a half, or potentially even more of the cost of activities.
Information provided by the district shows that Wright County Conference East schools have fees ranging from $140 for high school sports other than football ($165) at Hutchinson, which has a $450 family max, to $450 for Holy Family with no family max.
Of area schools, Rockford is cheaper at $150 per high school activity and a family max of $750, while Watertown-Mayer is more expensive at $200 per activity, $355 for hockey, and an $850 family max. Mound-Westonka is higher still at $250 per high school activity, $100 for the third sport, and no family maximum.
Per state statute, the district is required to approve the 2017-18 original budget by July 1.
The budget calls for general fund income of $25,180,087 and general fund expenses of $24,954,016, which would increase the fund balance by $226,071 to $5,799,342.
In the capital fund, income of $26,606,398 is expected, compared to $26,652,721 in expenses, decreasing the capital fund balance by $46,323 to $7,261,615.
In the food budget, income and expenses are expected to be comparable, resulting in a slight $764 increase in the fund balance to $199,049.
In the community service budget, income is expected to be $35,141 higher than expenses, resulting in a fund balance of $167,074.
The construction budget is expected to go from $44,857,002 to $11,340,102.
In the debt service budget, $5,438,616 in expenses versus $5,209,062 in income will decrease the fund balance by $229,554 to $635,107.
The trust budget will be spent down from $32,954 to $4.
Overall, the fund balance is projected to decrease from $53,392,773 in June of 2017 to $19,602,951 in June of 2018.
The board also approved the district’s 10-year long-term facilities maintenance plan and Wright Technical Center’s long-term facility maintenance program budget, including $12,240 from the district toward the WTC’s $450,000 plan.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• approved personnel matters including the resignations of Delano Elementary School teacher Shannon Durick, Delano High School vocal music teacher John Guidry, Delano Middle School nurse Natalie Langford, Communications Coordinator Traci Lawman, DES Assistant Principal John McDonald, Buildings and Grounds Coordinator Dave Peterson, and DHS counselor Sarah Rothstein; the retirement of DHS social studies teacher Lindsay Wallace after 28 years; the hiring of Building and Grounds Coordinator Matt LaBeau, DES ADSIS teacher Melissa Assels, DHS counselor Elise Boleman, sixth-grade teacher Teresa Campbell, DHS Spanish teacher Paige Entzi, second-grade teacher Emily Goudreault, third-grade teacher Jackson Lindquist, first-grade teacher Kelly Perlich, first-grade teacher Dianne Pohlmann, sixth-grade teacher Sara Potter, DHS social studies teacher Ethan Preisler, DES music teacher Hannah Rosholt, third-grade teacher Kelli Soupir, DHS science and biology teacher Carley Spiese, and DHS speech pathologist Amy Voss.
• accepted more than $20,806 in donations from 12 entities.
• approved the 2017-18 handbooks for DES and DMS. A clause in the DES handbook regarding student pickup was changed to say that parents of students not picked up by 3 p.m. on a regular basis will be contacted to discuss alternatives. A previous draft stated there may be a fee charged for supervising students who were not picked up in a timely manner.
• approved a resolution updating the school district population for community education to 11,633. Delano Community Education’s funding is based on that number.