By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Parents and piggy banks of Gloucester athletes can rest a bit more assured of their safety this spring, with school athletics and bus fees set to drop about 40 percent at all grade levels, thanks to a coming allotment of spare city funds.
The reductions come after city councilors approved Mayor Carolyn Kirk’s proposal to provide $75,000 in funding from the city’s so-called “free cash” account of $4.8 million, built with money carried over from the last fiscal year.
“We are so pleased to report this good news to families. As the city gets stronger financially, saving money for families and minimizing barriers to participation is the right thing to do,” Kirk said Thursday.
Kirk said the city anticipates the fee reduction to be sustained into 2014. While the school already provides a lower rate for the students who qualify for reduced lunch prices or for free lunch, the new rate will be a relief to families on each income level.
On the athletics side, parents who shelled out a full fee of $380 per season for a high school student to play interscholastic sports — including hockey, basketball, baseball and cheerleading — can hang onto $152 of that money, with that fee now ringing up at $228.
The high school track and field and cross country full fees will drop from $260 to $156 in the same fashion. And athletic programs at O’Maley Middle School will follow that pattern too, with hockey now costing $228 per full-fee participant and all other sports to pull in $60 fees at the middle school level.
Bus fees had been capped at $300 per family. Whereas parents with two kids hit that cap this year, with the new full fee set at $90 rather than $150 for the school year, only families with four or more children would reach that ceiling. And the cost of a one-way pass or a YMCA pass will drop from $100 per student to $60.
The mayor’s user fee proposal was part of a $1.7 million distribution that she had detailed and sent to the City Council. All expenditures of “free cash” must be appropriated by the council.
The nonprofit Gloucester Fishermen’s Athletic Association – the prime driving force behind the $3.5 million Newell Stadium “renewal” reconstruction project — has also helped ease user fees for Gloucester families over the years.
The association was launched with an eye toward providing assistance to students needing help in covering the city’s user fees, while the JJ Nicastro Foundation also provides scholarships for student-athletes to offset the cost to players and their parents.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.