St. Lucie County high school sports: Athlete processing fee to double

It's a busy Wednesday afternoon at the Fort Pierce Central Athletic Complex.  Young men are running through agility drills as part of spring football practice.  There's a Junior Varsity baseball game on one diamond, and it is Senior Day at Lady Cobra Field.  

 

These are the final days for some student athletes to take to the diamond, and also the final days for 50-dollar athlete processing fees.

 

Starting next year, that fee doubles to 100-dollars.

 

County athletics director Jay Stewart says when he first took the job in the late 1990s, there were five high schools and a 3 million dollar budget.  Now he has six high schools, and 60% less money to work with.

 

"So we have really tightened our belts and the community has always come to our aid during these tough times," said Stewart.

 

Stewart says the intangibles students get from athletics are vital and they service as probably the best dropout prevention program. He added the proposal to double athletic fees for high schoolers, and add a new 20-dollar fee for middle school athletes was the one with the smallest impact.  But some students say it could still hurt.

 

 "They're going to stop playing what they love just because they don't have enough money," worried freshman softball player Oneisha Spann.

 

Parent Linda Boltersdorf says the alternatives weren't acceptable.

 

 "If it keeps us from cutting programs, I'm all for it.  I'm also a coach and the parents put money up for everything else so it's not that big of a deal," said Boltersdorf.

 

Other students say if it comes down to having to fund-raise, they'll do it.

 

 "It's a passion so you don't want to give up because you don't have the money.  You'll try to do what you can to get that money to do what you love," said Central freshman Tatiana Nolen.

 

With nearly 5,000 student athletes, the higher fees will net an estimated 200-thousand dollars.  To put that in context, the schools supplemental insurance policy is nearly 250-thousand dollars each year. 

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