Fireworks sales could help district budgets

COSTA MESA — School board Clerk David Brooks recently suggested that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District revisit the idea of allowing booster clubs to sell Fourth of July fireworks on Costa Mesa school properties.

The ban on sales at school sites has had "unintended consequences," he said, meaning that campus programs are not benefitting as much as they can from the sales because they must compete with other programs at fireworks stands that line city streets.

"We need to create the beginning of some dialogue to help the booster clubs," Brooks said. "They need our help during these economic times."

In 2001, the school district banned the sale of fireworks on school properties in Costa Mesa for "liability reasons." Since then it's been tough raising enough money for some of the varsity teams in the district, said Marykay Jones, secretary of Estancia High School's athletics department.

While the district distributes $30,000 a year to the high school for sports-related items, such as uniforms and equipment, Jones said more often than not the money, while appreciated, simply does not go far enough.

But to give just a sense of how much sporting goods items cost, Jones said the average cost per football player on the high school's football team comes to roughly $500 per student.

"Now take 21 other sports and put them all together and try to pay for everything, and you'll see what I'm talking about," she said.

The city of Costa Mesa permits limited fireworks sales for a variety of organizations. Around Independence Day, fireworks stands line city streets.

Though in the same school district, the city of Newport Beach does not permit fireworks sales inside its boundaries, so some Newport programs raise money at Costa Mesa stands.

"I would love to see the policy revisited," Jones said. "We have the perfect parking lot at Estancia to sell them, too. We have a banana-shaped parking lot where people can get in and get out and they don't have to bother with trying to find parking."

Jones said the problems with trying to sell fireworks along the major thoroughfares of Costa Mesa is that there's simply "too much competition."

Making matters worse, Jones said, is the Newport schools more often than not have more financial support due to that city's economic advantages.

"I just don't understand why they're out there," said Jones, adding that she was speaking as a parent, not as an Estancia employee.

But Christina Chacon, an athletic secretary for Newport Harbor High School, said there are quite a few students who come from Costa Mesa and attend Newport Harbor High.

"If you look at the dynamics and the socio-economics, we get a lot of the Shalimar kids who are a part of our high school community," said Chacon. "It's a very low-income place. It's in between Placentia and 17th and 18th streets. Everybody from 19th Street south comes to Harbor. So you've got your kids who do need help."

More important, Chacon said, is to make sure kids have access.

"All I really care about is that the kids get to participate on the teams that they want to," said Chacon. "And that they can afford it. Like football, it funds itself. The stands are filled. But I'd hate to see boy's soccer not be able to play due to a money issue."

Jones said the city of Costa Mesa over the years has gotten stricter on whom it allows to sell fireworks, and that there has to be an inspection on the school property, regardless.

"Everybody has to sign off on it," she said. "It's not like there's no oversight. There's a tremendous amount of oversight."

Whether the district will revisit the policy issue remains to be seen.

District spokeswoman Laura Boss said the $30,000 allocated each year at the secondary levels is meant to offset the loss in revenue due to the abolition.

The only difference, Boss said, is that the money goes directly to the high schools and not to the individual booster clubs, which is was what happened in the past.

Boss said concerns for fireworks stands on school properties originated from the insurance carrier, and that immediately after the district approved banning of them, the schools moved their fundraisers to the city of Costa Mesa because "safe and sane" fireworks are still legal in the city.

"Mr. Brooks requested that the district revisit the current practice of disallowing the fireworks stands on our Costa Mesa campuses for fundraisers," she said.

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