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The Daily



12-02-03: Extracurriculars, sports may depart area schools

Some Western Buckeye League school officials wrestling with deficit


Sports may be cut at three Western Buckeye League schools next school year as a way to balance budgets.
School officials at St. Marys, Lima Shawnee and Elida all are talking about cutting or dropping athletics and other extracurriculars as a way to reduce forecasted million dollar deficits after levies failed at the November election.
St. Marys officials have not yet announced any cuts to the system, but said cuts will be made if a levy does not pass in March. Voters rejected a 1 percent income tax in November, and school officials now plan to put a property tax in front of voters in March.
“We will devise our plan of attack after March,” St. Marys Athletic Director Bruce Brown said. “Naturally, it will depend on what size the levy is and if it passes at all.”
The district is facing a $1.7 million deficit in 2006.
Elida school officials threatened that extracurriculars would be eliminated if a 1 percent income tax failed at the November election. The levy did fail, and now board members are looking at what cuts to make.
“Extras will be cut,” Superintendent Todd Hanes told The Daily Standard. “We just don’t know which ones yet. We have an education agenda we have to meet before providing any extracurriculars. We would save about $400,000 by cutting extracurriculars and that is a step in the right direction to trim a $1.5 million projected debt (forecast for next school year).”
The Elida board also is looking at placing another levy on the March primary election ballot. However, any new money passed would not be collected until 2005 and would not help next year’s deficit.
Shawnee Superintendent Michael Manor said his school district is facing a $1.8 million deficit by the end of the 2003-2004 school year, which represents about 10 percent of the budget. Voters there rejected a 5.7-mill property tax in November.
An outside firm will be coming to the school to evaluate its financing and staffing before any cuts will be made, Manor said. School officials also plan to make another attempt at getting a levy passed in March.
“We could save $535,000 by cutting extracurriculars,” Manor said. “We don’t want to get into a pay-to-play situation. You can run into problems with that. You will lose a lot of latitude if a parent pays $350 for a child to play and they sit on the bench.”
All three school boards plan to discuss future levy options and cuts at their next board meetings — Dec. 9 in Shawnee, Dec. 10 in St. Marys and Dec. 16 in Elida.
Western Buckeye League Commissioner Don Arnett said the league wouldn’t immediately reform and drop schools if extracurriculars are cut.
“We would hope the problem would be short term and the schools in the league are more than happy to accept that before taking another school,” Arnett said.
Lima Bath Athletic Director Rich Dacken said his school district also could face similar problems if a levy in March fails. Celina City Schools also is placing a levy on the March ballot to offset a projected deficit.
Cutting extracurriculars may not be the best answer to budget problems, one school official says.
Dave Wedderburn, athletic director for Xenia High School, watched his school go further into debt after cutting sports and other student activities during the 1990-1991 school year after a failed levy attempt.
“That year we saved about $183,000 in cutting our extracurriculars,” Wedderburn said.
But more than 100 students left the school district and went to other schools to participate in sports. The decreased student enrollment cost the school $340,000 in school funding.
“We are facing that same predicament now because of a failed levy,” Wedderburn said. “Obviously from past experience, cutting extracurriculars is not high on our option list. We figure we would probably lose 200 students this time around.”
Wedderburn said athletics and other extracurricular departments simply need to become more self-sufficient.
“Being involved in the same process these schools are going through before, I would suggest looking for short-term solutions for now,” Wedderburn said. “Extracurriculars are not only great for the children and the curriculum, they are great for the community. It is the best entertainment that money can buy. Later on, you can evaluate if the short-term solutions are just patching and come up with other plans accordingly. It’s terrible on the morale of a school when it is closed at 3:30 p.m. and there is nothing else going on. The kids will find something else to be doing, and a lot of that is not good.”


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