- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 2, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona’s high school sports governing body has unveiled a series of new fees to reduce a $519,000 budget shortfall from the last fiscal year.

The new fees have caught many school administrators off guard and they now must find a means to pay for them, according to The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/1pJDb3b).

Some wonder if they will be required to drop sports in order to make ends meet, or if this signals the end of some of the state’s prominent annual tournaments.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced the new charges for the coming school year in a memo it sent to its 272 member schools on June 11.

The new structure took effect Tuesday and is the executive board’s response to rapidly rising costs, particularly those associated with maintaining its stable of game officials and running annual state-championship tournaments.

Among the new fees is $50 to $350 for qualifying teams wishing to enter sectional or state tournaments; $100 for all out-of-state teams participating in invitational tournaments, to be collected or paid by the host member school; a service charge of $10 for each cancellation or game-change request as long as the request is not related to things beyond the school’s control such as weather or transportation issues; and a $3 per-game charge for the assignment of officials for regular-season and invitational tournaments.

“I think it caught most of us by surprise,” said Steve Hogen, athletics director for Mesa Public Schools. “None of us had any idea it was coming.”

School district administrators now must account for the additional charges, as their own budgets already are finalized or must be soon.

Association officials said the budget shortfall was $180,000 for the business calendar year from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012. It increased to $519,000 for the same period the following fiscal year.

AIA executive director Chuck Schmidt said the cost of officials, which accounted for more than $350,000 in losses, has grown considerably because of things like increased litigation and background checks.

He said a task force was formed to determine if it would be beneficial for the association to outsource the handling of officials as other state associations do, but it was found that it wasn’t a practical option.

Arizona has the lone state association that handles officiating assignments for its member schools.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com