As a former 12-year member and Chair of the Suffield Board of Education during difficult economic times, I faced more than my fair share of difficult budget fights. Class sizes soared, building maintenance and desperately needed capital projects were put off, (to the town’s ultimate detriment I might add), administration was reduced, and extracurricular activities at the high school especially were eliminated. The high school was threatened with loss of accreditation due to the insufficient per pupil expenditure. In all that time, however, although it was discussed, the then Board of Ed did not institute a pay for play in the sports program. The reason was simple and equally applicable now. Specifically, it was determined that it does not generate sufficient revenue to offset the problems and ill will it will cause. In the present BOE budget, it is proposed to raise $75,000, which is .002 of the $35.4 million budget passed. I think that as insignificant a part of the total budget that that amount is, the Board will not even realize that. It would mean that 1000 athletes are paying $75 and since there are 45 varsity, JV (junior varsity), freshmen, and unified teams at the high school and eight teams at the middle school, to get to the 1000 number the average team would have to have >18 team members paying. Moreover, it is a burden on at least some families and it is an even bigger potential problem for coaches who would be under pressure to distribute playing time more evenly, regardless of the student/athlete’s skills, attitude and willingness to work hard. Further, although the BOE’s budget presentation regarding athletics indicated that one of its goals was to “maintain high levels of participation” charging players to play is counter to that aim. Also, since team success is one of the BOE’s stated goals, at the risk of being politically incorrect, you don’t get there by playing everyone equally.
The $100 student-parking pass is another swing and a miss for myriad reasons, not the least of which is enforcement. If the BOE is so desperate for revenue, why not charge all the high school employees to park instead of just dinging students. I urge the BOE to reconsider its stance on both of these issues.