Steamboat Springs School District lays out options to solve athletic funding crisis |

Steamboat Springs School District lays out options to solve athletic funding crisis

Scott Franz

Steamboat Springs High School soccer player Hunter Anderson competes earlier this spring at Gardner Field. At a Steamboat Springs School District budget meeting Tuesday night, district officials discussed their desire to end the two-tiered system of sports funding next school year.

— The Steamboat Springs School District is more determined than ever to end next school year its two-tiered system of sports funding.

But in order for all 22 athletic programs in the district to be funded equitably, something has to give.

"Basically, our options are to increase fees, cut back programs or scale back on activities or contests," Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe said Tuesday night at a budget forum as he described how the athletic program needs $35,000 to cover another transportation shortfall next school year.

It also would need an additional $35,000 to end the tiered system of funding by covering the cost of uniforms and supplies for the 12 sports in the tier two category.

Tier one sports, including basketball and football, are fully funded by the Steamboat school district. Tier two sports are not. But participation in both tiers nearly is equal, with 296 athletes this year playing tier one sports and 279 athletes in tier two.

DeWolfe outlined a variety of options to generate the $70,000 that would allow all programs to be funded on a level playing field.

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They included a subsidy from the district; cutting athletic programs that include skiing and golf; raising athletic fees; and introducing a new $85 participation fee on extracurricular activities like Science Olympiad, National Honor Society, band and choir.

The latter proposal didn’t sit well with two parents in the audience.

"Trying to add on fees to academic programs (to cover the shortfall of the entire athletic program) doesn't seem like the solution," one of the parents said.

Many of the options presented Tuesday also concerned DeWolfe, who said raising fees likely would decrease participation in sports and extracurricular activities in a district that already has one of the highest fee rates in the state.

"Anytime you talk about raising fees to a level that could impact enrollment, I get nervous," DeWolfe said.

This is the second year in a row that Steamboat’s athletic department has faced a funding crisis.

DeWolfe expressed a desire last school year to do away with the tiered system of funding that district officials call antiquated and many student athletes call unfair.

In what district officials acknowledged last year was a temporary solution, the athletic department covered a $35,000 transportation shortfall with the introduction of a mandatory $30 transportation fee on all athletes. It previously was optional for tier one athletes.

It also called on the Steamboat Booster Club to raise an extra $11,000 and scrapped a $12,000 proposal to add an administrative assistant in the district’s central office.

DeWolfe said Tuesday night that the district now is seeking a permanent and sustainable end to the funding shortfalls.

The athletic director outlined the participation rates of Steamboat’s sports and called them all healthy.

He said to cut athletic programs would result in a loss of revenue that would undercut the potential savings of cutting the program.

"You really have to cut a lot of programs in order to gain the revenue," he said.

The district’s athletic program currently generates $648,808 in revenue.

About 66 percent, or $430,260, of that money comes from the district. About 33 percent, or $213,000 is generated at the high school through fees, subsidies and gate receipts. The remaining 1 percent comes from Steamboat Springs Middle School.

DeWolfe presented the budget proposals for the athletic department on the same night the budgets from five other district programs and buildings were heard, including the middle school, high school, transportation/maintenance, technology and the district office.

A committee of district administrators, parents and teachers will rank the budget proposals later this month. The Steamboat Springs School Board then will be asked to adopt a budget in June.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

Tier one sports

Includes: basketball, cross-country, football, soccer, speech, track and field, volleyball

Tier one sports are funded fully by the Steamboat Springs School District. Athletes pay a $150 participation fee and a $30 transportation fee.

Tier two sports

Includes: baseball, cheerleading, golf, hockey, lacrosse, skiing (Alpine and Nordic), tennis and wrestling

Tier two sports were self-funded as recently as the 2007-08 school year, and parents had to drive participating athletes to and from games.

To avoid liability issues and increase student safety, the district decided four years ago to fund transportation for tier two sports (athletes pay a $30 transportation fee). It also changed the funding system so that some coaches salaries were funded through a $150 participation fee paid by student-athletes.

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