In the Ann Arbor Public School system, compensation in the athletic department for coaches and staff throughout the district was $2.4 million in 2009. The district had to pay almost $500,000 in pension contributions in 2009 for its coaching and athletic department staff.
Sports are major budget line items in many public schools.
"It's not trivial," said Michael Van Beek, the education policy director for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy who did the analysis. "I don't think people really know how much schools spend on athletics."
Ann Arbor, which has an enrollment of about 16,500 students, spent $148 per pupil on athletic coaches and administrators, which includes salaries, health benefits and other non-payroll professional and technical services such as field maintenance.
However, Ann Arbor was not close to the highest cost-per-pupil in the state for athletic spending. That was Bloomfield Hills, which had a $285 cost-per pupil. Bloomfield Hills' total net cost was $1.5 million.
Now parents are feeling the budget crunch.
With 36 varsity sports at each of the two high schools and a third newer high school offering, Ann Arbor Public Schools started a "pay to participate" system. At the high school level, parents must pay $150 for the first sport and $75 for each additional sport, according to Ann Arbor Public School Spokeswoman Liz Margolis.
Margolis gave golf as an example. Parents pay $150 for each child. But Margolis said the school's booster program also asks each parent to pay an additional $200 voluntarily.
Margolis said the parents are paying at a time when the district has cut its athletic fund by 10 percent.
"It's very expensive and parents foot the bill now," Margolis said.
Van Beek did the analysis from information he received from the Center for Educational Performance and Information. The data is what the schools report to the state of Michigan.
The money came out of school's "athletic fund" and is designated for athletic activities.
Schools that hire coaches that are not on the school's payroll incur less cost. That's because if the coach is also employed separately within the district, the school would likely be required to make a 16.9 percent mandatory retirement payment contribution for the coach's additional sporting stipend. That school contribution increased to 20.6 percent in 2010.
For example, Ann Arbor paid an extra $426,482 in 2009 for retirement contributions towards Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, based upon just the extra stipends it pays for salaries to athletic department employees.
Van Beek said it is easier to ask parents to pay more than to get unions to give up high-priced insurance plans.