The Harrisburg R-VIII school district could have a football program in its future.
When is another issue.
“There’s no doubt if we will have football, the question is when, because of priorities,” said Hal Fisher, a Harrisburg school board member.
Because the board chose to join the Mid-Missouri Conference earlier this year, it obviously supports the eventual implementation of the program, board vice-president Tim Akins said.
But in a 7-0 vote at last week’s meeting, the board tabled the discussion of football until its November meeting.
Some information remains to be gathered.
The board is looking into placing a no-tax increase bond issue on the April ballot to complete the third of four phases of the school’s construction project, said superintendent Richard Davis. The board plans to meet with the architect in October to discuss the Phase Three budget.
By waiting until November, the board will have a chance to review the budget for Phase Three and determine when to begin when to begin football.
“I think the board is doing the prudent thing,” Davis said.
For example, right now, the district has been bussing students just over one-tenth of a mile between schools on an hourly basis, he said.
“I’d love to say yes, there’s some money there for football,” said Brent Voorheis, president of the board.
Until budget figures for football and Phase Three are available, no decision can be made. He anticipates building costs will rise because of rebuilding the gulf region from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.
Costs for beginning a football program include field and player equipment, uniforms and the construction of a practice field. A press box, concession stands, bleachers and bathrooms will eventually need to be added. Yearly costs that will be incurred are coaches salaries, officials salaries, field maintenance and reconditioning of equipment.
At the meeting, athletic director Steve Combs gave a report with approximate start-up costs of about $109,000 for junior varsity and junior-high programs, using price quotes and budgets from surrounding schools with programs. The press box, bleachers, concession stands and bathrooms would cost about $162,000, he estimated.
Combs assured the board there would be enough time to schedule games for next fall if a decision was made in November.
Kenny Graham, an organizing member of the Youth Football League in Harrisburg, which is not affiliated with the school, gave a presentation at the meeting. He also supplied quotes for start-up costs and presented donations promised if the junior varsity program begins in 2006.
“Much of the support is only good for the coming year,” Graham said.
These donations include materials, excavation and labor totaling close to $105,000 that the school would save by beginning the program in 2006. Taking these donations into account, Graham’s summary start-up cost for JV football was $40,450. And for the press box, concession stands and bathrooms, the school would only have to buy materials – about 50 percent of the cost.
Graham also provided a suggested timeline for starting football in Harrisburg schools. Under his plan, the JV program, for ninth through 12th grades, would begin in 2006 and a seventh- and eighth-grade program would begin in 2007. In 2008, varsity football would begin.
The Harrisburg Youth Football program has a team for seventh and eighth graders that would dissolve when a school program began for these students. The league has committed to donate its equipment and uniforms for these athletes to the school.
There were mixed feelings following last week’s meeting.
“It didn’t shock me that it was tabled and I understand the point of why they tabled it at this go-round,” Roberts said. “They do need all the facts and figures on Phase Three and football before they go ahead with either one.”
Others don’t see it as a money problem, since the district has about $1.8 million in its reserves.
“It’s a good reserve account, but we aren’t as blessed as some other school districts,” Voorheis said.
He and Davis explained that the board aims to keep an adequate amount of money in the account in case expected state aid is not received. “It doesn’t take too long” to go through the reserve money, Davis said.
Davis urged both sides to work together.
“I don’t think it has to be contentious,” he said. “I would like to see us working on the same side for the best of the entire district.”