Douglas athletic department facing cuts
Tribune News Service
MINDEN, Nev. – With the Douglas County School District making large cuts to the budget for the 2011-12 school year, the athletic departments at Douglas and Whittell high school will be asked to shoulder some of the burden.
The district’s board of trustees voted last month to cut secondary athletics by 15 percent, an estimated total of $40,000, in order to save student intervention funds.
The 15 percent of the athletic fund is part of the large whole that includes the reduction of more than 60 positions district-wide including the elementary art and music programs being cut by a third and the physical education programs being cut by nearly half.
It remains to be seen how much exactly Douglas High’s athletic program will have to cut.
“We’re waiting for them to give us a number per site for how much of that cut is our responsibility,” Douglas High principal Marty Swisher said. “Once we have that, we’ll figure out how to get it done.
“Right now everything is tentative and we won’t have a final budget until count day next year. All we’re asking for is flexibility in how to make those cuts. If we have that, we can make it happen.”
Initially, Swisher said, the board was talking about cutting coaches’ stipends wholesale.
“We felt like once you start heading down that road, you’re headed toward cutting whole programs,” he said. “If they give me the leeway to work with the coaches and the athletic director on how to handle those cuts, if we have a set number to get to, we can get it done without taking a broad brush to the department.”
Swisher said it would be a delicate balance, but he plans to target the athletic department’s discretionary funds, which cover things like uniforms, equipment, referees and game officials.
“We’re planning for 10 percent out of that budget,” he said. “Between our supply budgets and our staffing budgets, just in terms of what we spend in order to hold events, those are the first two areas we’ll look at.
“Our biggest expenses are things like gatekeepers, clock and scoring officials, security and referees. There are areas we can cut back there, we just have to be really frugal to limit the impact to the student-athletes.”
Travel is another area Swisher is looking at, although he said the savings isn’t as much as one would think.
“Typically we try to fund one (out-of-area) tournament or event registration for every sport with transportation to the event,” he said. “Previously, with any additional tournaments, we’d leave that team responsible to pay for the registration, the rooms and all of those things.
“One thing we could look at is eliminating those second trips, because it does cost money in having to pay a substitute teacher for the coach while they’re gone and things like that. The catch is, a lot of sports have already cut back on their trips to where they are already only taking one trip a year.”
Washoe County is also looking at dropping freshman sports, which could come into play locally as Douglas freshman programs would have no Class 4A opponents left to play. Currently, freshman teams are only fielded in football, volleyball and basketball.
Some Reno schools already don’t carry freshman teams in those sports.
“We have looked at freshman sports as a potential cost savings, but it wouldn’t be a significant savings,” Swisher said. “It would make a difference, but we’re only looking at one high school with a limited number of freshman sports in the district.”
That decision may be out of Douglas High’s hands, though.
“We don’t know what Washoe County is going to do, but we have heard the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association is discussing cutting freshman sports across the board for Northern Nevada,” Swisher said. “That won’t contribute in our case, but it could be a savings and perhaps we just carry some more kids up at the JV level in those sports.”
Swisher said that ultimately the school is prepared to make the cuts it needs to and he hopes to do it in a way that bears as little effect on the athletic department as possible.
“We value athletics for young people,” he said. “It’s an important part of a comprehensive education. Not everyone gets to participate, but a large number of our students do.
“It’s a situation where we can cut some costs in order to meet the board’s needs. I think athletics is an obvious place we need to look.
“But we also wouldn’t want to go to a pay-for-play scenario or have parents taking care of all the transportation to games. I hope we don’t have to get down that far in the future because I think when you look at some schools that have tried those ideas, you start to see diminishing returns on the student-athlete’s experience.
“It gets to where you can’t offer a meaningful program and positive learning experience for kids. I don’t think anyone wants to get to that point.”