Major budget cuts in Battle Ground Public Schools could impact high school sports — and also put an end to the much-anticipated return of middle school sports — if voters reject the district’s levy for a second time in 2021.
No decisions have been made just yet on what a double-levy failure Nov. 2 means for levy-funded extracurricular activities at Battle Ground and Prairie high schools, but eliminating sports programs or increasing pay-to-play fees are both under consideration, said BGPS spokeswoman Rita Sanders. The county’s third-largest school district offers more than 20 sports and activities sanctioned by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association at its two comprehensive high schools.
“Cuts are going to have to come from somewhere if it doesn’t pass,” Sanders said.
About 14 percent of the district’s nearly $200 million annual budget to fund K-12 basic education comes from levy dollars — money that helps make up for the shortage of state support for public schools. In February, Battle Ground voters rejected the four-year replacement levy that would’ve raised $116 million over the next four years. The levy failed by 990 votes.
If the levy fails again by voters next week, the district will have to eliminate $28 million next school year in student programs, staff and services. What that means for high school sports and activities is uncertain, but the district added whatever decisions are made, if any, won’t take into effect until 2022-23.
This school year, the district budgeted $1.8 million to fund extracurricular activities, including sports and activities. Much of that goes toward salary stipends and benefits for 178 personnel, such as coaches and advisors. Additional money goes toward sports equipment.
Battle Ground has a history of failed bond measures and levies. Since 1992, the district has suffered 11 levy failures, and had a double-levy failure as recently as 2006. A double-levy failure in the early 1980s meant eliminating its bus transportation services and middle school sports.
But the voter-approved levy means the return of middle school sports as soon as January, according to the district.
Had it not been for COVID-19, middle school sports offerings would have happened district-wide last school year. Recent parent and community surveys showed bringing back sports for middle school students a high priority, starting by reintroducing cross country, basketball and soccer. Should the levy pass, boys and girls basketball would begin for seventh and eighth graders as soon as January once coaches are hired.
The district last offered middle school sports in 1982.
“We would like to bring it back,” said Sanders, the district spokeswoman. We’re excited to bring those same opportunities to our middle school students and develop the community and relationships that happen when you have middle school sports.”