Pay to play plan nixed

Milford school athletes won’t be charged to participate

MILFORD – School athletes here won’t be charged for playing sports – at least not anytime soon.

The School Board last week voted 4-1 not to sup­port any "pay-to-play" plan after listening to argu­ments for and against.

Ro b e r t Wi l l e t t e , the board dissenter, said Mil­ford’s tax increases have made a t h l e t i c fees worth investigat­ing further.

"I have been on a fixed in­come for 20 years," he said. "My last tax bill was more than $8,000," up from $400 decades ago.

Board member Kevin Drew, however, said "no amount of information" would convince him to sup­port a pay-to-play scheme.

Parents, teachers and school administrators were equally passionate in their opposition, saying too many young people would be shut off from the benefits of athletics if their parents had to pay.

"I see and hear about so many kids looking to play sports for the first time and they hadn’t been able to afford" to join pro­grams like the Milford Community Athletic As­sociation, said Don Gut­terson, Milford Middle School athletic director.

Marc Maurais, the Mil­ford High School athletic director, called the issue of user fees a "moral ques­tion" and the lack of fees one of the things "that makes Milford special."

Principal Brad Cra­ven said administrators shouldn’t spend any more time studying the issue.

"I’ve seen participation save a life, save a family," he said, and School Board members’ children have benefited from free co­curricular activities.

The term "extracurric­ular" was changed to "co­curricular," Craven said, because sports, theater and other activities are as important, or more im­portant, than academics.

Administrators had updated a pay-to-play study that was done years ago, looking at how other school districts within 15 miles deal with the cost of athletics and how much revenue they could expect. Most schools have no fees, but there are fees at Bow, Souhegan, Hollis Brookline and Hanover.

Estimated gross reve­nue – to be used for coach stipends, transportation, officials fees, team dues and equipment – was esti­mated at $40,000.

Rick Wood, who ran un­successfully for School Board last year, urged the board to continue study­ing the question because shrinking revenue and in­creasing expenses aren’t sustainable.

"If we don’t pay here, we pay in the tax bills," he said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.