Move to Big North Conference to increase amount of travel for teams
Transportation costs rising for upcoming school year
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WEST BRANCH — With the dissolution of the Northeast Michigan Conference, Ogemaw Heights High School has moved into the Big North Conference, which will result in an increased distance teams will have to travel to compete in conference play.
Chavon Nihls, director of finance at the West Branch-Rose City Area School District, said that the move to the Big North Conference, as well as an increase in general transportation cost, will result in a greater cost to the school’s athletic fund.
Nihls said that the cost of transportation for school events will increase from $60 for the first 30 miles, $1.80 per mile for 31-300 miles and $1.70 for every mile over 300, to $70 for the first 30 miles, $2 per mile for 31-300 miles and $1.90 for every mile over 300. She said that the cost is set by the transportation department, and reflects the wage of the driver, cost of fuel and maintenance of buses.
She said the cost of transportation for athletics was $31,322.28 for the 2009-2010 school year and $37,558.40 for the 2010-2011 school year. Next year, she said, the cost will necessarily increase.
Superintendent David Marston said that, despite the increased travel, moving to the Big North was the school’s best option, since the other conference being considered was the Saginaw Valley Conference.
“Either we’d be the northernmost school in the Saginaw Valley (Conference) and travel a long way, or be the southernmost school in the Big North and travel a long way,” Marston said. “We did think we had more in common with the northern schools.”
He said that the idea of becoming an independent school was considered, but rejected, because it would remove the opportunity of athletes to compete for conference championships or receive all-conference recognition and would still likely result in increased travel in comparison to previous years.
“If we hadn’t gone into the Big North, our other choice would be to be an independent school,” Marston said. “I think we still would have to incur the cost.”
According to Nihls, transportation costs are initially covered by the school’s general fund, and are billed to the student activity funds of the various groups which utilize the transportation at the end of the year.
For example, Nihls said, the cost of transportation for sports comes from the athletic fund.
“They (the school) incur the cost, and at the end of the year, they bill the applicable departments,” Chevon said.