The Bibb County school system spends $2 million a year on its student athletic programs, but school officials said Thursday they didn’t foresee making any cuts to the programs.
As board members look for cost-saving measures as they develop the school system’s fiscal 2011 budget, which takes effect July 1, they asked the system’s athletic director for specific systemwide costs for students to play sports.
For the roughly 1,800 high school athletes and 1,700 middle school players, it costs about $133,000 for equipment per year, $82,500 for security at high school games and about $944,500 for 164 coaches’ salary supplements, among other costs.
In light of severe budget cuts, some school systems in other states have moved to intramural sports or “pay-for-play” sports, which requires parents to pay for their children to participate in sports.
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“We’ve never had a discussion about athletics or the costs,” said board member Susan Sipe, who initially asked for the information. “I think we may be to the point we have to think outside the box.”
Raynette Evans, Bibb’s athletic director, said she hopes athletic programs would continue since they are vital to many students’ social lives and can be tickets into college.
In Bibb, 24 students recently landed athletic scholarships.
If the system went to a pay-for-play model, “it would only add more hardship to parents,” she said. “We would lose student athletes.”
To help defray costs, she said, the system raises about $265,000 from gate receipts and another $300,000 in fundraisers. The school system, she said, also has scaled back on sports travel, paying $217,000 this past school year versus $400,000 in 2008.
At one time, Evans said, coaching supplements in Bibb County — local pay on top of the amount the state pays — were among the highest in the state. But most school systems have since surpassed Bibb. Each coach roughly earns about $5,600 in supplements, she said.
If the number of coaches was reduced, “it means you possibly have to cut sports” teams, she said.
School board President Gary Bechtel said he could never vote to eliminate athletics, even in a tough budget year.
“It’s very difficult for me to put a price on” athletics, he said. “The amount of enthusiasm, support and sense of belonging for those who participate, if you eliminate that, even short-term, you may not ever be able to regain it.”
Board member Susan Middleton said Thursday she doesn’t think the board would cut athletic programs, at least not for the coming year.
“I don’t think it’s something we will ever do,” she said. “Definitely not this year.”
The school system presented a general operating budget of about $180 million in expenses and revenues for the upcoming school year. The system is implementing up to 12 days of employee furloughs to save $6.2 million and is eliminating 30 teaching positions to save $2.1 million.
The school system is receiving $12 million less in state and federal funding compared with the amount budgeted in the school board’s original fiscal 2010 general fund budget.
Ron Collier, the school system’s chief financial officer, said Thursday the local tax digest would yield about $1.5 million less than originally projected. The school system may generate about $77.5 million from local property taxes to help pay education costs. The decline is due to hundreds of homes being reassessed at lower values recently, Collier said.
Now, the school system will have to figure out whether to take another hit in its reserves, raise taxes or find another place in the budget to cut.
A public hearing on the proposed school system budget has been set for June 22.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.