District 51 athletics feel pinch

Higher fees can't offset budget cuts

School District 51 did not have to ax any sports or consolidate teams during the most recent budget cuts. But the district’s athletics director said the department still feels the pain of budget constraints.

District funding for athletic operations declined from $375,000 two years ago to $175,000 this coming school year, according to District 51 Athletics and Activities Director Paul Cain. Without a $40 per-high-school-student per-sport boost in athletic fees in the 2011–12 school year and a $20 increase in middle school fees, Cain said he likely wouldn’t be able to afford the officials, games workers, transportation, meals, lodging and supplies, such as uniforms and helmets, needed to put on games.

“We probably would have looked at cutting sports or programs or both if the (school) board hadn’t increased athletic fees,” he said.

Although athletic fees of $110 at the high school level and $50 at the middle school level will help generate an extra $112,000 in 2011–12, Cain said cutbacks had to be made. Beginning this fall, the district will provide transportation one way only for middle school athletes going to sporting events in town, and high school teams will travel less, especially to the Front Range.

School booster clubs likely will host fundraisers to help make up for cuts to supply budgets, which have been halved over the last two years.

Cain said he talked with the city of Grand Junction about having the Parks and Recreation Department take over some middle school sports. The district “seriously considered” getting rid of middle school sports to save $350,000, District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita said. But Cain said the city did not have the staff or resources to offer a program comparable to what the school district has.

The city currently offers basketball and flag football for middle school students for a fee of $45 or $50, and it assists some leagues and clubs with their sports, including soccer, baseball and volleyball. The city relies on volunteers to coach its programs, and city teams do not travel like District 51 teams do.

“There’s a clear line between what we do and what the district does,” Parks and Recreation Director Rob Schoeber said.

A private league or club solution does not interest Cain if it would cost students more to participate.

“We would lose a lot of kids participating in sports,” Cain said, adding sports “offer students an incentive to stay in school, and there are fewer discipline problems when kids are involved in athletics.”


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