Playing on a budget: Slicing travel among cuts in District 51 athletic budget

School District 51 is cutting its athletic budget for the 2010-11 school year and the cuts will affect all sports - especially in travel­. CHSAA is allowing the Class 5A Grand Valley football teams get to count their first game toward playoff points. All sports will play more games against smaller, Western Slope schools.

Track and field won’t be hurt as much by the District 51 athletic budget cuts, since competing against schools in lower classifications don’t hurt playoff chances.

Public school districts across the country are making significant cuts to their athletic budgets for next school year. School District 51 is no different.

The school district will cut $85,000 from its athletic budget for the 2010-11 school year, District 51 Athletic Director Paul Cain said.

Those budget cuts include travel expenses, supplies and meal money for trips less than 200 miles one way.

“We understand programs will be impacted by the cuts, but what we tried to do is not cut programs and play a normal schedule of games,” Cain said. “The parents may have to provide meal money. It could be worse.”

One school district in Pennsylvania cut ninth-grade athletics, according to newspaper reports. North Carolina’s high school activities association recently voted to shorten the football and basketball seasons.

Many school districts across the state have put restrictions on the number of miles teams can travel for a nonleague contest.

“I know some of the Front Range schools I’ve heard are limited to 90 miles, but they can get away with that,” Cain said. “If you’re a Denver school, you can go to Fort Collins in under 90 miles, Colorado Springs is less than 90 miles. We just don’t have that (in Class 5A).”

Next year, there are 65 schools competing in 5A. All but Central, Fruita Monument and Grand Junction are on the Front Range.

Grand Junction girls basketball coach Sam Provenza anticipated a cut in travel expenses and didn’t schedule the Heritage Holiday tournament for next season.

“I know we had a cutback in travel,” Provenza said. “At some point it will affect us competitively. We try to pull as many 5A schools as we can get. Plus the seeding committee looks at that closely, so we have to be careful who we’re playing. I’d love to play Rifle again, but they’re dropping to 3A. It doesn’t matter to the committee if we beat a 3A team.”

Grand Junction, Central, Fruita Monument and Palisade are permitted to fill their schedules, but the cuts will likely mean playing more smaller schools on the Western Slope.

That’s not a big deal for sports like track & field.

“I don’t think it’s going to impact us a whole lot,” Fruita track coach Tom Goff said. “There’s enough good meets on the Western Slope, we don’t need to go to Denver. Once in a while, you get kids you want to get over there and see what’s it’s like.”

It’s a much bigger deal for sports like basketball and football.

Central football coach Vern McGee said the Warriors are making one less trip to the Front Range next fall and will play Palisade instead.

“We go to Denver once and Fort Collins once,” he said. “We’re playing Palisade next year, that helped travel-wise. That’s helped the district. Plus, it’s a better gate than playing a Denver team.”

CHSAA is helping out by allowing Central, Fruita Monument and Grand Junction to count one game against a 4A team for 5A playoff points for the first game of the season.

Where each school’s athletic programs choose to make its cuts is up to the school’s athletic directors, Cain said.

“Each building gets a dollar amount for their sports,” Cain said. “I’m not going to sit here and micromanage and say you’ve got to take it out of supplies, do this and do that.

“They’ve got to make it work. Some buildings are going to keep their supply money close to where it was last year and cut travel. Some are going to supplement some of the cuts through booster club. Across the board, we are cutting back on travel.

“Some of them are coming up with some unique ideas like getting an extra game on one trip. It’s not like it’s a flat thing we’re doing.”

The school district is making the cuts without raising athletic fees, keeping the cost at $70 per sport per child in high school. It’s been that way for at least nine years, Cain said.

“(Athletic fees) is something we’ll look at over a two-year period,” he said. “A lot of schools are doing that this (coming) year. It’s that fine line, with the economy being so bad, if we raise fees, are there going to be more parents that can’t afford it?

“If we raise fees, we’ll still let kids play. We’ll provide scholarships and stuff like that, but the bottom line, is more revenue going to come in? It’s not going to happen for next year, but it is being looked at.”

Some school districts are charging more for athletic fees based on the sport because you have more expenses, Cain said.

“It’s one of those things,” Cain said. “If we cut games, depending on the sport, you can actually lose revenue. I believe we can cut more costs by cutting Denver trips than cutting games. If we cut a game with Delta or Rifle, it’s minimal (savings).”

The school district generates revenue from gate receipts, athletic fees, all-sport punch passes and Student Body Activity stickers sold to students that gives them admission to all District 51 athletic events.

“That’s what makes athletics unique,” Cain said. “We do generate quite a bit of money, but it’s not enough to totally cover our expenses.”

The Grand Valley Lacrosse Club pays all the lacrosse expenses, from CHSAA dues, travel, officials, transportation, uniforms, assigner fees and game workers. That will continue. The club has fundraisers to pay the expenses.

Cain said the athletic programs are already raising money through booster club events like bingo.

“Bingo has been the most successful fundraiser in the valley for the booster clubs,” Cain said. “CHSAA has passed some new legislature that the booster club has to run what they give the school through the athletics office.”

That means whatever money booster clubs raise for a school’s athletic budget must be spread equally to the different programs instead of giving all or most of it to a specific sport, which could be a violation of Title IX.

Fundraising is becoming more of a reality for high school athletic programs.

It’s no different in School District 51, but now, the programs will need to raise more money for their programs if they are going to keep up with their current budget.

“We’re going to have to do more fundraising,” McGee said. “You’ve got to get commitment from kids and parents, which is hard to do. We park cars at Country Jam, that’s our biggest one.

“We raise money anyway every year. We try not to have any changes with what we get and where we travel, we just do more fundraising.”


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