MOUNT VERNON — A member of the Mount Vernon School Board told the News Tuesday that it is very likely that, should the school levy fail in May, there will be no sports in Mount Vernon schools for 2013-14.
Board member Margie Bennett said that, without the proposed levy, the board may be forced to cut all extracurricular activities, from the high school on down.
“We haven’t finalized the list yet,” explained Bennett, “but it looks like all of the extracurricular and most of the co-curricular would have to go.”
All extracurricular activities would include football as well as basketball, or any sport, regardless whether it is revenue-generating.
The vote in May will be on a 5.6-mill levy for Mount Vernon City Schools. It would cost an estimated $176 per $100,000 valuation of a home. Overall, the levy would generate about $3 million in revenue.
If it fails, the school board estimates about $1.3 million would have to be cut from the 2013-14 budget. Extracurriculars, as a whole, cost about $500,000.
“It’s a definite possibility,” said Mount Vernon schools superintendent Steve Short. “That’s one of the things the board is working on.”
“I know people are very concerned. Especially teachers, as this impacts their classrooms as well,” said Bennett. “We’re talking about non-mandated courses (being cut). These cuts will have to be pretty severe.”
Students are already taking part in a pay-to-play program. Each athlete will pay $300 to participate in a spring sport this season. That’s not enough to cover many expenses.
“It goes back to what our priorities as a district are,” Short said. “I believe extracurriculars provide our students with great opportunities to learn about education, hard work, time-budgeting, working with people and what it means to persevere when things get hard.
“But the priorities are academics first. What the board will decide — the board will have to make that decision if that comes to them.”
School funding has become a divided topic among the public in recent years. Many people claim taxes are rising too high to continue funding some of the extracurricular activities in schools. Others say the activities are vital for a good education.
In recent years, different school systems have faced similar threats. The North Fork School District saw levy after levy fail, only to have its sports and other activities saved by private donations and fundraisers. South-Western City Schools in Grove City threatened to shut down all extracurriculars if its levy failed. It did, and all sports — including football — and other activities were eliminated from the entire district, including four high schools. Another levy was passed a few months later, and sports then resumed. That levy costs taxpayers $226.63 per year on a $100,000 home — significantly more than the one Mount Vernon will vote on.
Short does not forsee the likelihood of sports being saved by private donations.
“I don’t see that as a potential,” said Short. “If you, in your house, had to cut back to do some things you want to do, then yes, you could. But, does that mean you don’t eat? Does it mean you don’t pay your electric bill? As you work through the philosophy of what to cut and how to cut, you have to prioritize what is most important.”
Several Mount Vernon High School coaches contacted by the News declined comment on the issue.
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