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Posted on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools proposed athletic cuts include pay-to-play increases, middle school sports cuts

By Kyle Austin


Pioneer and Huron girls basketball players huddle before a February game at Huron.

Joseph Tobianski | file photo

Related: Ann Arbor school budge proposal could result in teacher layoffs

The Ann Arbor Public Schools administration is proposing to increase pay-to-play fees, eliminate certain middle school sports and cut transportation as it struggles to deal with an $8.67 budget deficit.

The planned athletic budget presented at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting includes $287,000 in cuts and $225,000 in increased revenue for the 2013-14 school year. The athletic budget was part of the $180.59 million expenditure budget that Superintendent Patricia Green and her team of cabinet members proposed Wednesday.

Reductions totaling $8.67 million are needed to balance the budget for the 2013-14 academic year. Administrators also proposed instructional cuts that could result in teacher layoffs, as well as other budget reductions.

The number is approximately half of the original estimate in December. Since then, the total projected budget deficit has been reduced from $17 million to $8.7 million.

The board isn’t expected to approve a budget until late May.

The athletics budget for 2012-13 is just over $3 million, approximately 2 percent of the district’s overall budget. Roughly $1.6 million was eliminated from the athletic budget for 2009-11. Among the cuts then were coaching salaries and the unfunding of lacrosse, bowling and most freshman sports.

In drafting a proposal for this year’s cuts in cooperation with district administration, Ann Arbor’s three high school athletic directors were able to avoid unfunding sports, opting instead for cuts that affected the athletic department as a whole.

“The public made it very clear last time that they were not happy about it, and they wanted more broad-based cuts, and more things that kind of affected everybody,” Skyline athletic director John Young said. “Most of what you saw out of us kind of goes across the board. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, it’s going to affect you.”

But the recommendation does propose eliminating middle school baseball and softball and seventh grade basketball. The proposal would also eliminate five middle school club sports offerings from the 28 that are currently offered.

Under the proposal, high school pay-to-play fees would increase to a one-time fee of $250, which would cover all sports. High school athletes currently pay $150 for the first sport and $75 for their second sport. They also often pay additional fees to booster clubs.

Middle school pay-to-play fees would increase to $100 from $50.

According to numbers compiled by AAPS, $250 for the first sport would be tied for the second-highest pay-to-play fee in the Southeastern Conference, behind only Saline’s $325. But of the seven other league schools that charge fees, five charge fees for second sports and two charge fees for third sports.

This marks AAPS’ first pay-to-play increase in three years.

“We still are one of the cheapest tickets in town,” Huron athletic director Dottie Davis said.

Fees would increase more for sports that use facilities outside of the schools. Boys ice hockey fees would increase to $600 per student and golf fees would increase to between $225 and $400 to help cover facility rentals.

AAPS currently pays $72,000 per year in ice fees and $21,000 per year in greens fees. Athletic directors said the three Ann Arbor schools are the only ones in the SEC that cover ice time.

Pioneer athletic director Eve Claar said hockey parents are used to paying increased fees for ice time, and that overall parents have said they prefer more fees and reduced transportation to sports getting cut.

Young said one of the reasons the athletic directors wanted to avoid unfunding more sports is that the district has seen participation in unfunded girls sports fall off faster than it has in unfunded boys sports.

“When you have to go out and raise the money for the sports and you have to find a coach and all that, we’ve just seen a trend where girls aren’t as successful doing that as the boys,” Young said. “That continues to be a concern.”

The proposed budget has options to either reduce busing to events outside of Washtenaw County or eliminate athletic transportation altogether. Students are already responsible for their own transportation within the county, with the exception of track and football.

Reducing out-of-county busing would save the district $120,000, and reducing all transportation would save $300,000. District officials said having students find their own transportation does not expose AAPS to liability.

Equipment reduction would also save the district $30,000. AAPS Chief Financial Officer Nancy Hoover said that would not include safety equipment.

Kyle Austin covers sports for He can be reached at or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.



Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 10:52 p.m.

Maybe AAPS could hit up the U-M to sponsor some sports. The taxes from the soon to be eminent domained properties could pay for some ice time, greens fees, transportation,...


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:43 a.m.

Actually, that is not allowed by NCAA rules. I brought that up last year at a Booster meeting.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 9:08 p.m.

I would rather see the bussing eliminated for after school sports then the sports themselves. Some kids only play one or two sports, and if baseball/softball are one of them, the school won't collect any $, let alone $100. I've said this before- I can't wait until my kids are out of high school- I know they won't settle here with their future families due to all the AAPS BOE crap. Pretty sad.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:39 p.m.

This will take care of this year............more to come. Biggest number is teacher salaries. Not saying they don't deserve a fair wage, but the other cuts like sports which are only 2% of the budget are a drop in the bucket. Teachers make a good wage for 9 months, have excellent health care, good retirement packages which allow them to retire in their fifties. I'm waiting to see how many thumbs down I get, but it needs to be said. Millions in the private sector have faced large cuts and yet our "public servants" expect us to just pay a little more. Hang onto your wallets; internet sales taxes are flying through the senate as I write this. You can pay a little more in property taxes to support the teachers lifestyles or look hard at their agreement and make an informed decision. Economic and social justice for all including public servants..................

kathy coles

Fri, May 17, 2013 : 4:30 a.m.

You are forgetting the fact that teachers pay a lot for their excellent health care and benefits. Teachers may only be in a school building for 9 months a year, but during those nine months they are working more then 8 hours a day. They are making lesson plans, grading papers, attending school plays, concerts etc. they are also using their own money to buy supplies needed in order to teach our children. I would rather pay my child's teachers what they are worth so that my child is able to get the education he needs and deserves, then to have teachers that just don't care if my child succeeds or not. Did I mention to that in order for our teachers to remain certified they have to continue their education and the school districts do not pay for this, it comes out of their own pocket. And, no I am not a teacher but a parent that has much respect for them. I also am an involved parent, not one that believes it is ONLY the teachers responsibility to educate and or babysit my child


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

The Varsity Ice Skate team is $500. If they increase the hockey to $600 what is ice skating going to look like? BOE? Cut Balas spending. Now!!! Green is only doing this to kill AAPS before she leaves.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 9:04 p.m.

Does the AAPS supplement Varsity ice skating? I thought it was a club sport? News flash- ice skating is expensive. Always will be. If you get decent skates, and have private lessons, $500 is a drop in the bucket. If you dont have private lessons to pay for, then you are saving far more than most, and you should be able to swing the $500. Also, most high schoolers can get a job.

G. Orwell

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

What a shame. Our politicians give trillions to corrupt banks and endless wars yet we don't have money to properly fund schools. We need to clean house at the federal level and start over.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

One aspect of AAPS athletics that I have not seen discussed is the possibility of reconfiguring the athletic conference. Monroe, Bedford, Adrian, Tecumseh are a significant distance from Ann Arbor...why are we competing with them? I just drove 100 miles round trip to Monroe to transport kids. Why can't Ann Arbor be in an athletic conference that competes with schools closer...Plymouth/Canton, Northville, Novi, South Lyon, Brighton...etc?


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:42 a.m.

Pioneer and Huron are 1650'ish students... 1900 is a thing of the past - until they close Huron!!


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:14 a.m.

It has nothing to do with avoiding competition. Ann Arbor had to travel far to FIND competition. It has everything to do with history. Ann Arbor used to be in a conference with Ypsilanti & Jackson among others to get Class A competition. I am not positive but I think they also traveled to Flint and Battle Creek. It was pretty widespread. Brighton, South Lyon, Novi etc were not big schools 40 -50 years ago. (Neither was Saline.) Adrian and Ypsi used to be bigger than they are now. Ann Arbor has always been out of the suburban Detroit loop. Plymouth, Canton, Novi, Northville etc have always been neighbors and have been in-and-out of the same conferences for years. They got bigger together. They had no need to have Ann Arbor in their conference. Remember also that Ann Arbor plays: other 2 Ann Arbor schools, Saline, Ypsi, Dexter, Chelsea. These are pretty close. Why can't they be in a closer conference? Because the other conferences are full of traditional rivalries and don't want them in at the current time. But Ann Arbor plays all these schools too, they are just not in the same conference so they don't necessarily play them all, or every year, or in all sports. For reference, Pioneer to each school per Google, rounded to whole number: Skyline: 4 miles Huron: 5 miles Ypsi: 6 miles Saline: 7 miles Dexter: 10 miles Chelsea: 15 miles Plymouth Salem: 20 miles (other 2 Plymouth schools approx the same) Northville: 20 miles Novi: 25 miles Tecumseh: 25 miles Adrian: 35 miles Monroe: 37 miles Bedford: 41 miles


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:05 p.m.

Kyle, I think enrollment is a red herring. Although Pioneer & Huron would be on the smaller side of the numbers, before Skyline opened they were the biggest. I think it's more about avoiding competition. School Enrollment Pioneer 1907 Huron 1633 Bedford 1654 Monroe 2018 Saline 1803 Adrian 952 Chelsea 874 Dexter 1215 Tecumseh 918 Plymouth 2095 Canton 2073 Northville 2230 .


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

I already know that most school buses do not transport most teams and it is up to the parents to do the transporting. Sad state of affairs. Save Balas and cut everyone else.

Kyle Austin

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

The issue of cutting back on longer trips did come up at last night's meeting, but not in changing the SEC. Schools like the ones you mentioned are in southern Michigan, and my understanding is they really just don't have enough schools of similar enrollments nearby to form their own conference. The closest collection of Class A schools to Monroe/Bedford/Adrian is Washtenaw County, thus the Southeastern Conference.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Focusing on middle school sports only, cutting 7th grade basketball and baseball/softball seems like a short-sighted mistake. What is the budget savings to cut these programs? Quoting Huron AD Dottie Davis, "We still are one of the cheapest tickets in town." Given that AAPS is having the budget problems it has, then increase the fees to play sports so we are not the cheapest ticket in town! As an example, Rec & Ed charges a fair price of $120 for a kid to play softball ... which includes volunteer coaches, no transportation, a t-shirt for a uniform, etc. It seems fair for the schools to charge at least that much or more to play middle school sports. I understand and respect that paying (more) to play is a financial hardship for certain families and may affect the opportunity for certain students to play. I don't know what the policy is for these situations, but the district has to know roughly what percentage of student athletes fall into this category and can account for that accordingly in the cost. Cutting the sports provides nobody with opportunity to play. While we all miss the days of not paying (or paying a nominal amount) to play school sports, the trade-off of cutting more sports versus families paying a more to keep them seems like a easy decision.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

At a minimum, preserving 7th grade basketball at least keeps AAPS on par with other districts in the area. While cutting baseball and softball for middle school would be short-sighted, it is acknowledged that other districts like Saline and Dexter have made that choice too.

Charles Curtis

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

And I am sick of hearing how its the states fault. If the state is such a problem, then propose something there are change it. The schools should contact their reps and get something changed. I look around to other districts and they do not seem to have the same issues we have. Could they be planning ahead better than we do? Could they manage what they have better? And can the district really afford the windmill (my math shows AAPS is providing 400k for that educational "project"). The district achievement gap is going to spread much wider if no busing, since the main issue there comes down to family support for education, and if the at risk dont have the support to go to school, I doubt they will find a way to get those kids to school on their own. Stop the whining, and do your job admin and BOE!

Charles Curtis

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.

It would be informative to find out what the area sports real cost is. Could we get a better overall picture of what is being charged in Dexter, Saline, Chelsea, Ypsi and Lincoln for 5 or 6 of the common sports they have with AAPS. Ann Arbor has the pay to play fees, but that is not the full picture. Ann Arbor player are hit with pay to play, insurance fees, bus and booster club fees, so I'm not completely sure "we are the cheapest" is accurate when you total it all up. Gutting middle school sports is a mixed bag in my view. There is a need for sports (I don't want to get into the importance), but the coaching is very questionable. The teacher's contract almost guarantees that teachers get those coaching jobs, and while there are some very solid coaches, there are also quite few just collecting the paycheck. There is no guidance from the HS coaching staffs (many will privately say MS coaching is a joke) as to what the coaching should be concentrating on and how to best do it. Look at other districts and you will find there is more contact than we have in Ann Arbor. I think we could have volunteers coaching doing a better overall job with some guidance and interest was shown by HS coaches. The savings in MS sports is small in the overall picture, but trimming needs to be done everywhere. Balas needs to be eliminated. The fact that we are here having to make these massive cuts is all that needs to be talked about. If balas was doing its job, we would be making small adjustments, not massive slashes. There is no forward thinking there, just a sense that Ann Arbor is entitled. The directors of ?? for HS and MS subjects need to be eliminated. Lets pay the teachers a stipend and have the teachers help decide what to teach in their subjects, have no idea what the directors of the subjects actually due. There has been very little change to curriculum and the texts used have not changed very much in most subjects. No need to have a subject coordinators for all schoo


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

They say $250 for all sports. If you read the fine print? Hockey is going to cost $600. I can't imagine what the ice skating fee is going to be because we shell out $500.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Ypsilanti hasn't charged pay to play fees for sports. Their coaches make a fraction of what Ann Arbor coaches make. They haven't charged because they wanted to keep involvement. Ann Arbor could reduce their expense if they didn't buy new uniforms for certain teams annually. It seems you can go to a park and see basketball players with their uniform during the summer.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

Thanks Kyle. I think the community would greatly appreciate a thorough breakdown of where the money goes for AAPS sports. For my kids' sports, the parents pay for: pay to play fee, booster club fees that range from $150 to $225, food for tournaments/senior night celebrations/team banquet/team dinners, all transportation...I have yet to see bus transportation for anything...., fees for championship travel games/meets/tournaments/invitationals, warm ups and uniforms. The only thing we haven't been asked to pay for is referee fees and coaches' salaries. I'm sure this varies from sport to sport so it would certainly be great to see a complete, detailed list of what is spent for each sport.

Kyle Austin

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

Charles -- the real costs of participating in sports is something we plan on looking into more in the coming weeks, because you're right that pay-to-play is only part of the story, and it varies by district.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

I think the article should be clear to state that it is the Men's Ice Hockey ice that gets covered, and not the Women's Ice Hockey ice time. Many thanks go out to the sponsors of the Women's Ice Hockey team for helping them to fund ice time (among other things.)

Kyle Austin

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

You're right, Bulldog5, I've updated it to include that information. Girls ice hockey is currently not an MHSAA sponsored sport and thus their ice time hasn't been covered by the schools.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

It's clear from the high volume of comments yesterday that this is an issue that people feel very emotional about. I have to admit that I feel surprisingly emotional about it. Both of our kids have benefited from playing sports in the Ann Arbor schools and on travel teams. In an atmosphere of scarcity and fear people seem to turn on one another instead of figuring out how to solve our problems. I don't know how anyone who has kids or has raised kids could possibly think that cutting anything that gets them exercise and interaction with other young people is a good idea. Our town is a great place, but we tend to have an overinflated sense of ourselves. Our athletics here have been good despite a lack of financial investment. The experience of travel sports opened my eyes to how pathetic our facilities are. They are poorly maintained in the case of baseball/softball and dangerous in the case of soccer. Instead of talking about reducing these opportunities I wish we could fund improvement and expansion. In these times of scarcity I can't help but think about the A2 Greenbelt. Somehow we managed to vote for a program that has now acquired over 4,000 acres of land. the overwhelming amount of which nobody in Ann Arbor could even find, let alone use. We tax ourselves 2 million dollars a year to fund that program. If we can pay for that, we ought be able to have enough pride in our community and regard for our children to fund athletics.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:40 a.m.

I don't think we are allowed to vote on this as a community anymore since Prop A. We now have to convince a whole county to value education as much as we do. That hasn't worked well in the past.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:19 p.m.

Or you could, well, pay for the programs you feel benefit your children.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

Pay the Superintendent more money. Yeah, that's the answer. She is so good she will figure out a way to save teachers jobs, that why she is worth so much money!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

So if you cut funding for ice fees and green fees, you save $93K. Based on the few students who participate in these sports, why throw all this money there when you are talking about laying off teachers? If Ann Arbor is the ONLY school in the SEC to cover ice time, why not cut it?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

Thanks Kyle!

Kyle Austin

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

The proposal does call for the district to cut paying for ice time. I believe it would be phased out, going from 50 percent cut next year to 100 percent cut in 2014-15.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

Can we have a break down of the theatre salaries and cuts expected?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

Vida, you can find a complete list of the cuts in this story: The cut proposed last night was 38.5 percent of the total theater budget, in addition to eliminating the Pioneer High School theater technician. I unfortunately don't have any other details at this time.

Jim Mulchay

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:13 a.m.

from the above article - "District officials said having students find their own transportation does not expose AAPS to liability." That is certainly one way to look at it.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:34 a.m.

I brought that up last year and somehow it's viewed that the school has no liability when student athletes are driving themselves to events. With all the nonsense we should be able to compete for whatever school we want!