Sports

Sports funding update is on school board agenda tonight

A partnership between Island Rec and the San Juan Island School District to develop a funding strategy to continue a school sports program for students is under way. A public meeting was held at Friday Harbor Middle School on March 18. Details of the funding strategy were presented to interested parents, coaches, staff and administration.

The San Juan Island School District is planning to cut athletic program funding in order to meet $1,095,000 in reductions over the next two years. The district plans to cut 60 percent of its expenses in administration and non-instructional services.

Island Rec may contract with the school district to fund the sports program: baseball, basketball, cheerleading, football, golf, softball, tennis, track, volleyball and wrestling. An update on funding the athletic program for 2009-10 will be provided at the San Juan Island School Board meeting tonight at 6 at Friday Harbor High School. The meeting is open to the public.

In November, Island Rec plans to ask voters to renew its property tax levy of 10 cents for every $1,000 of assessed valuation. Island Rec may ask for an additional 5 to 6 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to fund school sports. The request would coincide with the retirement of a school district bond levy of 59 cents per $1,000. If the school sports levy is approved, the overall levy amount paid would be about 50 cents per $1,000 less than what is paid now, proponents said.

The school district bond was approved in 1997 and raised $11,480,000 to modernize the middle school and high school, improve fire safety and energy efficiency, build new classrooms and a library, and purchase 30 acres on Carter Avenue.

Island Rec has not made a formal resolution to place the levy on the ballot. However, Island Rec is working toward creating a levy committee with community members, Island Rec representatives, Purple and Gold members, and members of the Friday Harbor Athletic Association.

“If we make a formal resolution to do this, we need to know how expensive the sports program is,” Island Rec Commissioner Scott Zehner said.

The school district is reviewing the costs of the sports program, estimated at $200,000. Costs can vary depending on the length of post-season, number of off-island games, number of students enrolled in sports, and donations received.

If the levy is approved, the first receipts would not be received until April 2010, leaving the funding of fall and winter sports up to philanthropy. In order to pay for the fall 2009 sports season, $45,000 must be raised.

“It's up to us as a community to develop a sustainable funding source for this program,” Purple and Gold president Elisa Howard said in a school district press release. A fund-raising committee has been formed and a barn dance and action is tentatively scheduled in spring.

In a recent San Juan Island School District press release, Island Rec chairman Ralph Hahn — retired Friday Harbor High School principal — said, “Island Rec's board is in full agreement of doing what we can to sustain the sports program for our kids. It is just not an option for our community to eliminate its interscholastic sports program.”

Island Rec — which is formally the San Juan Island Park and Recreation District — provides leisure and recreational activities for residents of San Juan Island. Its parks include Eddie & Friends Dog Park; the Skate Park and the Family Park at the San Juan County Fairgrounds; and the open space and walking trails at the former gravel pit. Island Rec also assisted in making improvements at Egg Lake.

Island Rec is a junior taxing district and governed by an elected board of five commissioners. Island Rec has the authority to contract with the school district for services.

Participation in school sports is an important part of a healthy community, Island Rec director Sally Thomsen said in a recent phone interview.

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