Athletics program faces 'perfect storm' in budget crisis

By: Dave Krizman PVL Pipeline
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The health of athletics for our local high schools was my topic of discussion with Dave Horsey, superintendent of the Placer Union High School District. Armed with statistics, printouts, spreadsheets, and data Horsey painted a dire picture for athletics in the district. However, it should be pointed out that while the situation is serious, our local high schools are in better shape than most other schools in the Sacramento area. We spent a great deal of time addressing the ‘worst case scenario’; that is, what happens if the tax extension is not placed on the June ballot, or if it does not pass. “It (athletic cuts) will be drastic. Anything outside of the core curriculum will be up for elimination,” stated Horsey. “We are at a breaking point. We may not be able to field all the sports that we are fielding now,” he added. Before any decision on what sports might be cut, the district would create an athletic task force committee that would look at the many factors involved in making a final decision. Horsey was quick to point out that “the community would be invited to be part of this committee.” This committee would consider what sports have the most participants, what sports bring in the most revenue and what sports need lower-level teams for the development and safety of its athletes. “Until now, the community did not see one sports program off the table,” reiterated Horsey. The dire situation facing this district and all other districts in the state begs the following question, “How have we come to this?” Since the ‘07-’08 school year, the district has seen their budget slashed by six million dollars every year. As a result, each school site has seen their budget reduced by 18% since the ‘07-’08 year. Accordingly, athletics has seen their budget reduced by the same amount. For example, Placer High’s athletic budget for last year was $105,000; this year it was $81,000. This money pays for all coaches, the cost of transportation, the cost of officials, the cost of equipment and uniforms, the cost of insurance and liability for over-night stays and other miscellaneous items. Each school site, Colfax, Del Oro, Foresthill, and Placer, have been given the autonomy to decide where to make the necessary cuts. No value judgment was placed on any sport, and each site was encouraged to accelerate donations and fundraising from the community. ‘The perfect storm’ of financial duress now hovers squarely over this district and others in the state. Each year, the state gives less to schools. This year the ACLU won a lawsuit over the state of California, essentially making it clear, that schools can no longer aggressively pursue donations from families. The result? PUHSD has seen a 20% drop in donations. Finally, if the state does not extend the current tax rate, PUHSD will see another 1.2-1.4 million dollar cut to their budget. Individuals, families, and businesses have also been devastated by the economy. But, if you have the time, the energy and the passion for high school athletics, I encourage you to call your local school and see what you can do. As Dave Horsey stated, “It (athletics) is a part of the students four year experience.”