Inflation affects funding in prep sports

Many schools have boosted their revenue in sports since COVID started in 2020.

Bainbridge got a new turf field built in 2022, North Kitsap’s teams traveled across the state for primetime matchups and state playoffs, and other schools got new jerseys or gear.

Many schools have been able to spend extra money since the pandemic. Budgets increased four to 20 times more comparing 2020-21 to 2022-23.

According to the Associated Student Body, the North Kitsap School District, including North Kitsap and Kingston high schools, had revenue of $96,297 in 2020-21. In addition, the district’s projected revenue last year was $249,005 and this year is $310,500.

Most of the revenue has come from gate sales as people returned to going to events as COVID diminished. Sales of ASB cards and sports fees collected from players also increased.

In 2021-22, South Kitsap generated over $50,000 from gate sales, while Bainbridge eclipsed $10,000 and the Central Kitsap School District made over $71,000 from football and baseball. ASB cards cost $35 in North Kitsap and $50 in Central Kitsap.

On the other hand, expenditures have jumped at shocking rates, too. Costs were $112,347 in 2020, and the district plans to spend nearly $376,000 this year.

NKSD’s communication coordinator Jenn Markaryan said, “We had increased operating expenses due to increased health and safety requirements. When looking at expenses, inflation rates have had an overall effect on operating costs. Transportation also continues to be a significant expense.”

The Central Kitsap School District, which consists of Central Kitsap, Olympic and Klahowya high schools, has seen the largest expenditures. In the 2020-21 school year, costs outweighed income by nearly $75,000. In 2021-22, year, the district is projected to spend $652,075, about $130,490 more than expected.

Bainbridge will see the largest jump in revenues and expenditures. Bainbridge only made $24,659 in 2020-21. However, it expects to bring in about $106,000 and spend nearly $139,000.

South Kitsap and Bremerton have been affected the least. Bremerton’s expected to make more money than spent for last year and this year after losing about $24,000 during the pandemic.

South Kitsap lost $61,635 during COVID and is expected to lose less than $9,000 from last year.

Since the inflation rates across the country are hitting local sports, schools rely on other means to keep their budget balanced.

“Money brought in from ASB cards, gate revenue and drink machines go towards offsetting the costs of event workers, sports entry fees, postseason costs, athletic reserve and program budgets,” public relations officer Erin Bischoff on Bainbridge said. She added sports do not bring a profit to the district. Instead, if the expenditures are higher than revenues, the district relies on local levy funds.

“School-sponsored athletic programs are not funded through any other source,” Bischoff said. “Local levy funds are largely used to fund things such as special education, learning assistance programs, food services, transportation, other classroom supports and districtwide costs.”

One of the main expenditures local levies have is transportation. Although there is no statistic for transportation costs for sports only, the expenditures for NKSD’s pupil transportation has grown over $1,300 in the last two years.

Official fees vary by sport, location and other factors. For example, an official needs to travel 10 miles to a Bainbridge playoff baseball game that goes 10 innings. Since umpires traveled to a postseason game, they received $18 for mileage, a base hourly wage and 15 percent of the fee per extra inning.

Since fees and expenses continue to rise, certain schools look to charge their students fees to play sports for the first time since pre-COVID. CKSD and South Kitsap do not charge their athletes but may change those policies soon.

South Kitsap’s administrative assistant Kerri Mueller said, “We haven’t collected sports fees since 2020 but are hoping to start collecting them next year.”

Bainbridge charges $250 a sport, while North Kitsap and Kingston each charge $110. If a student cannot afford the fees, they can receive support from the district.

State law requires high school students have access to the many activities offered at BHS and that “financial hardship should not be a barrier to participation,” Bainbridge athletic director Luke Ande said.

Bischoff added, “There are a couple of ways students can have fees waived. The first way is if their family qualifies for free/reduced lunch. Even if a family doesn’t qualify [that way] there are other options.”

Bainbridge Community and Bainbridge Schools foundations created the Youth Experience Support Scholarship Fund. Students can fill out a form online and request between 25-100 percent of financial support to follow their passion.

Districts are looking for other ways to limit the gap between revenue and expenses. “The renewal of the voter-approved Educational Program and Operations levy provides approximately $2 million of funding each year,” Markaryan said. “The voter-approved Capital Projects levy provides funding for fields and facilities.”

Ande added BISD will tighten the gap from, “generous community donations along with booster and other school fundraising efforts help to support these programs. Alongside this, there is ongoing collaboration with teams to understand their annual needs to ensure that all athletes are supported in an equitable way.”

Bremerton has the smallest fund in the district.

Bremerton has the smallest fund in the district.