Athletics funding in Columbia high schools takes budget cut

Thursday, June 23, 2011 | 11:37 a.m. CDT; updated 4:48 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 23, 2011
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Roll over each sport to see the combined actual costs from Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools’ 2009-10 operating budgets.

COLUMBIA — Funding for athletics at Columbia's two high schools took a $11,144 cut under the budget passed Thursday morning by the Columbia School Board.

The budget reduction will affect services and supplies, said the district's Athletics Director, Bruce Whitesides. He said no coaching stipends will be cut.

Cost per sport per student

 According to district figures, these were the costs per student for the following sports in declining order:

  • Girls basketball: $48,237 budget; $1,206 per athlete.
  • Boys basketball: $52,561 budget; $1,031 per athlete.
  • Boys swimming: $20,672 budget; $984 per athlete.
  • Softball: $38,246 budget; $850 per athlete.
  • Girls swimming: $20,672 budget; $795 per athlete.
  • Football: $130,394 budget; $724 per athlete.

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"The athletic director at each school will be given a smaller total budget, and they will determine how to spread it out by team," said Linda Quinley, the district's chief financial officer. "That is a part of their annual process anyway, as team size and travel needs change year to year."

Earlier this year, Superintendent Chris Belcher was looking for places to trim the budget and suggested elimination of the high school swim program. Impassioned protests from swimmers, parents, coaches and alumni, however, succeeded in saving the program.

"I put it back in the ownership of the patrons," Belcher said. "They convinced me that maybe I was pulling the trigger too quickly."

His rationale for cutting the program was the low enrollment and high cost of swim teams. A total of 47 students belonged to the boys and girls teams at both high schools in the 2010-2011 school year. That number has dropped over the years from more than 60 team members, Belcher said.

During the past school year, boys swim teams had a budget of $20,672 for 21 swimmers, making the cost per male swimmer at $984. With the same budget, the cost for each of 26 female swimmers was $795.

Whitesides said enrollment is the key factor in determining which sports are offered. Some sports, including football, may have a relatively high budget and cost per student, but 180 students play football.

Football and basketball are also revenue generators for the district because of the admission fees to games.

Belcher said Columbia Public Schools does not spend as much on athletics as many other schools. The athletics portion is only 0.5 percent of the entire budget, which was more than $155 million last year. 

In addition to the cut, the district is looking at other ways to find money for the athletic program. A uniform contract was signed with Nill Bros. Sports and Adidas in April.  Coca-Cola was given exclusive rights to vending machines and advertising.

Over five years, the district hopes to gain $500,000 from Coca-Cola sales, Belcher said.

"We've been working really hard and creatively to continue to support the athletic program but without putting more district funds into it," the superintendent said.

The district will continue to cover coaches, base-level equipment and basic transportation for all sports. Anything additional, including uniforms, are typically funded by booster clubs or parents.

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julie shea June 23, 2011 | 3:48 p.m.

"Some sports, including football, may have a relatively high budget and cost per student, but 180 students play football...The district will continue to cover coaches, base-level equipment and basic transportation for all sports. Anything additional, including uniforms, are typically funded by booster clubs or parents."

So the larger sports get more funding from the district AND will get a larger slice of the funding pie from that Kelly Press has been working to collect throughout the community AND they have more parental contributors to donate funds and time.

Sounds to me like the smaller sports are getting robbed of funding yet again. Smaller sports may only have a few dedicated parents involved in the booster club and they can't foot the bill for everyone.

I hope Whitesides considers more than just the number of athletes but what each sport entails. Does travel expense include overnight travel? What about food expenses for travel? If parents can't contribute, its either up to a few parents or the kids are forced out.

I realize budgets must be cut but perhaps CPS could look into buying some sports buses so the teams are not paying first student wages plus gas for every out of town event.

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger June 24, 2011 | 9:55 a.m.

This will no doubt strike many as heresy, but when did high school athletics become institutionalized? I'm all for physical education--lots of it--but what educational purpose, strictly speaking, do inter-school athletics serve? Obviously, they provide colleges and universities with a steady supply of athletic fodder, but that's hardly a mission statement for a high school.

(Report Comment)
Shaina Cavazos July 8, 2011 | 4:11 p.m.

Mr. Ottinger,

Here is some rationale from the CPS Athletic Department's website:

"The Columbia Public Schools Athletics Department is proud to offer a strong athletics program, the purpose of which is to develop in young people an understanding of the positive impact an active lifestyle will have on their lives. The program also provides a unique learning environment where affective, psychomotor, and cognitive skills can be developed. Also fostered are good health practices, good sportsmanship, self-control, self-expression, and the opportunity for positive social interaction with peers. Research clearly shows that active healthy students are more likely to be academically motivated and establish habits of behavior that will promote lives that are models of wellness."

From my interview with Dr. Belcher for this story: "The more engaged a kid is in their school, the higher their GPA because they feel ownership," Belcher said. "They are connected."

Hope that provides some more of the information you were looking for.

Shaina Cavazos

(Report Comment)

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