Schools already providing the three Rs of education, reading, writing and arithmetic, must dig even deeper financially to help bring another R — relief — to the Minnesota State High School League.
On Tuesday, the league’s board of directors unanimously approved raising two fees paid by its member schools and adding a new one based on enrollment.
Each school’s annual league membership fee was increased $40 from $120 to $160 for the next school year. In addition, the fee that schools pay the league per activity also rose $40 from $120 to $160. Previously a $10 increase, from $110 to $120 already had been approved for 2020-21.
In addition, schools will be charged $1 per student enrolled, adjusted for free- and reduced-lunch numbers. That increase also begins with the next school year.
Those fees represent an additional $700,000 to $750,000 in expected revenue for the league, which is seeking to offset a projected $407,000 shortfall for its current fiscal year.
The projected deficit is so large because of revenue declines in sponsorships and ticket sales, as well as costs associated with updating the league’s data systems and website.
Of the league’s revenue streams — state tournament revenue, sponsorships and school fees — only the fees, which cover less than 15% of the league’s budget, are steady.
“It meets the direction of the board to move to a more sustainable model of finance,” executive director Erich Martens said.
The move marked the second consecutive February the league raised school fees. A year ago, the league approved five years of more moderate annual fee increases. At the time, the league membership fee was $100 annually and the fee per activity was $90.
The per-student charge, Martens said, was approved in 2015.
“It was not deemed necessary at that time but remained approved to be used when or if there would be need by the league,” he said.
The effect of the activity fee increase on individual students and families will be up to schools to decide.
“Member schools set their own participation fee for their students,” Martens said.
Addressing the board on the proposed fee increase, assistant director Rich Matter said, “We have, I believe, the best programs in the nation. We have great venues, for sure. But all that comes with a cost.”
• Despite in-person pleas from three girls’ tennis coaches, including former board president Les Zellmann of St. James, the board did not make a motion to discuss a proposal to add a third class to the sport. As a result, no action was taken. The threshold for three classes is 192 teams. Girls’ tennis is one team short pending Waconia’s arrival this fall.
• Associate director Craig Perry, a league staff member since 2005, will retire effective Aug. 8. Perry oversees student eligibility as well as the state tournaments in tennis, wresting and hockey.