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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Milford School Board nixes pay to play for student-athletes

By KATHY CLEVELAND
Staff Writer

MILFORD - School athletes here won't be charged for playing sports - at least not anytime soon.

The School Board last week voted 4-1 not to support any "pay-to-play" plan after listening to arguments for and against. ...

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MILFORD - School athletes here won't be charged for playing sports - at least not anytime soon.

The School Board last week voted 4-1 not to support any "pay-to-play" plan after listening to arguments for and against.

Robert Willette, the board dissenter, said Milford's tax increases have made athletic fees worth investigating further.

"I have been on a fixed income for 20 years," he said. "My last tax bill was more than $8,000," up from $400 decades ago.

Board member Kevin Drew, however, said "no amount of information" would convince him to support a pay-to-play scheme.

Parents, teachers and school administrators were equally passionate in their opposition, saying too many young people would be shut off from the benefits of athletics if their parents had to pay.

"I see and hear about so many kids looking to play sports for the first time and they hadn't been able to afford" to join programs like the Milford Community Athletic Association, said Don Gutterson, Milford Middle School athletic director.

Marc Maurais, the Milford High School athletic director, called the issue of user fees a "moral question" and the lack of fees one of the things "that makes Milford special."

Principal Brad Craven said administrators shouldn't spend any more time studying the issue.

"I've seen participation save a life, save a family," he said, and School Board members' children have benefited from free cocurricular activities.

The term "extracurricular" was changed to "cocurricular," Craven said, because sports, theater and other activities are as important as or more important than academics.

Administrators had updated a pay-to-play study that was done years ago, looking at how other school districts within 15 miles deal with the cost of athletics and how much revenue they could expect. Most schools have no fees, but there are fees at Bow, Souhegan, Hollis Brookline and Hanover.

Estimated gross revenue - to be used for coach stipends, transportation, officials fees, team dues and equipment - was estimated at $40,000.

Rick Wood, who ran unsuccessfully for School Board last year, urged the board to continue studying the question because shrinking revenue and increasing expenses aren't sustainable.

"If we don't pay here, we pay in the tax bills," he said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@nashuatelegraph.com.