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Committee formed to address athletic transportation

HEBRON – Lakewood School Board members formed a committee June 13 to explore options to cover athletic transportation expenses. Members are Lakewood Athletic Director Bo Hanson, Superintendent Jay Gault, board member Tim Phillips, incoming Athletic Boosters President Kevin Krier, and community member Shawn Rose.

“We’re going to try to cultivate some community interest,” said board member Trisha Good, ahead of the June 13 board meeting. She said board members hope forming the committee will give its members an opportunity to brainstorm solutions.

“A decision will be made at the July meeting,” said Gault.

“In one way or another, the board’s going to have to deal with this,” said board member Forrest Cooperrider. He believes athletic transportation is ultimately the board’s responsibility, but he doesn’t know what the solution is at this point.

Hanson told board members during the May 9 board meeting that his department is out of funds to transport students to and from athletic events, and he asked board members if the district could resume paying for it.

Covering transportation expenses became the athletic department’s responsibility when the district trimmed $1 million from its budget in 2010. Previously, Hanson said the athletic department depends upon money from ticket sales to cover expenses, and there’s not enough money being generated to pay for everything. Hanson is trying to avoid implementing a pay to participate fee for athletics. He’d prefer the district’s general fund to help cover the costs of transporting students to athletic events.

The athletic department still owes the district $20,000 for an advance it received last year.

Boosters recently offered a 2012 Mustang V6 or $10,000 in a $20 per ticket drawing. Profit was earmarked for athletic transportation.

The drawing was held June 11 at the Tom Lawson Memorial Lancer Golf Outing. Judy Haubiel of Pickerington had the winning ticket,e, but current Athletic Boosters President Mark Nichols said she paid extra at Mathews Ford, where the Mustang was purchased, to upgrade the Mustang to a Ford Fusion. “That was good for us in the end,” said Nichols, who said Boosters kept the Mustang’s rebate.

In the end, however, Nichols said boosters ultimately lost money on the drawing and had to dip into their funds for $2,500 to cover the vehicle’s cost. “We’re going to chalk it up to a learning experience,” he said. A drawing for a camper last year, netted a little over $7,000 in profit for the Boosters. Unfortunately, that $7,000 also had to be used to cover the Mustang’s $20,000 price tag.

“It is my belief that we are going to the well too often, and pumping the generosity of this fine community dry,” said Nichols. He said athletic boosters are spending far too much time raising money for transportation, which in turn reduces their ability to raise funds for their core function.

“We should be raising funds for clinics, uniforms, equipment, and to help with facilities maintenance or upgrades,” said Nichols. “These are the things that directly affect our kids and their performance. Paying for bus drivers, buses, fuel, and vehicle maintenance are functions of the school board, in my opinion.

“My feelings about the board taking back transportation are well known,” said Nichols. “I feel that it is the right thing to do, and have felt that way since the passage of the levy.” He said the board’s willingness to consider doing so is a step in the right direction. “The thought is to fund transportation through next year, when Lakewood will join the reorganized Licking County League, and miles traveled for sporting events should decrease. In the meantime, my hope is that the board will form a committee to investigate some creative solutions to this problem,” said Nichols, whose wish was granted.

“I am very grateful that the board of education has seen the situation we are in and is open to looking for solutions. I believe that I represent hundreds of people that feel the same way.”

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