Frisco ISD students to pay 'operations fee' to play sports

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A multi-million dollar budget hole has Frisco ISD scrambling to find new ways to bring in cash.

Voters rejected a tax increase that would've paid for expansion already underway, so the board voted Monday to make students pay to play sports.

Some call it “pay to play,” but the district calls it an "operations fee.” Come fall 2017, Frisco ISD middle school students will have to pay $100 to play school sports. High school students will have to pay $200.

The school board approved the fee Monday night when voting for the new budget. The district spends about $10 million a year on extra-curricular activities. This fee is intended to offset athletics costs for transportation, security, laundry and game officials.

“This is a one-time fee that we're asking for the district,” said Frisco ISD Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Pickens. “I can't speak for booster clubs or other outside costs. But as far as the district is concerned, this is a one-time fee."

Pickens says it's needed to keep the budget balanced through the next school year after suffering a $20 million budget shortfall. A vote to raise the tax rate in Frisco failed last fall. That money would have helped support the district. Instead, the school board made cuts like delaying the opening of four schools to save money on staffing. Teachers will still get a two percent raise next year.

Some parents worry the fees could sideline students from less affluent homes. District officials promised there would be discounts or scholarships for kids who want to play sports but can’t afford it. The athletics department is identifying students with financial needs and will work with those students.

There are several North Texas school districts that have similar fees like Highland Park and Coppell.

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