TTHS athletic spending $30,000 over budget
Tahoe-Truckee High School overspent its athletic budget by $30,000 this year, churning the debate of how much should be spent on sports and how sports impact academic offerings.
“It’s really hard to face the public and say we just paid $30,000 for athletics and we can’t do it for music,” said school board member Karen Van Epps at Tuesday’s Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting in Tahoe City.
The music program issue became entwined with the athletic budget because the district must use districtwide reserves to pay the $30,000.
“We’ve got a real problem and somehow we’ve got to fix it without impacting the other students,” Van Epps said.
The school board voted 3-1, with Van Epps dissenting, to pay for Truckee High School’s sports expenditures. Trustee Doug Hamilton has resigned and a seat is currently vacant on the five-member board.
Van Epps said she voted no because there were not any conditions placed on Truckee High School for the expense.
It had been suggested that Truckee High School should reimburse the general fund, so the expenditure doesn’t impact all the students but only Truckee High School.
There was no action to make Truckee High School pay the money back, but TTUSD superintendent Pat Gemma suggested that perhaps Truckee High School could voluntarily make up the $30,000 in future years, Van Epps said.
Truckee High School Principal Dennis Le Blanc explained to the board at Tuesday’s meeting that the biggest expense for sports teams is traveling, especially in the Nevada 3A sports league which requires long distance trips to Nevada towns such as Spring Creek, Yerington and Dayton.
The baseball team recently traveled to Spring Creek and only played four innings before the game was rained out, but the trip still cost $2,000 and the game had to be rescheduled, Le Blanc said.
It is also hard to determine how well teams will do and if they will be traveling to Las Vegas for a championship which costs even more money.
However, School board member John Wojcik said that the schools do have some discretion on scheduling non-league games. He noted that if the NTHS junior varsity soccer team he coaches wanted to play in Sacramento, then the team would have to raise money.
Truckee High School’s football team has traveled to Sacramento in the past for non-league football games.
Truckee High School’s athletic budget for the 1998-99 school year is $156,573, but will increase by $30,000 with Tuesday’s budget revision, according to TTUSD business manager Monty Folsom.
North Tahoe High School was able to stay within its budget of $150,194, Folsom said.
“If you have 750 students and North Tahoe has 450, why are the athletic budgets so close?” asked school board member Suzanne Prouty.
The budgets are comparable because the number of athletes and sports teams are nearly the same, Le Blanc said. Seventy percent to 80 percent of North Tahoe’s students participate in a sport, while 50 percent to 55 percent of Truckee High School’s students participate in a sport.
“We all have to travel to the same places,” he said, with Truckee have two more teams than North Tahoe. NTHS Athletic Director Ed Turner said NTHS has 17 or 18 teams.
Le Blanc said the Truckee football team raised $15,000 last year and the basketball team raised $4,000.
“A coach has to fund-raise so much it takes away from coaching time, it’s very difficult to keep coaches,” Le Blanc said.
He said sports are important to the students.
“One of the things that truly brings a kid into a school and makes them feel a part of it is athletics,” he added.
Last year, the two high schools combined spent $100,000 more than the approximate $250,000 budgeted for the two schools together, prompting the school board to increase the athletic budget by $50,000 for this year.
“I think the board was assuming we would live within that athletic budget,” said Gemma. “The board is after a system or procedure so that once you set an athletic budget, it isn’t overspent.”
The school district does not have a system in place to estimate the costs of sports and a way to keep the expenditures current enough to monitor. He also noted that the athletic budget was estimated in September, but wasn’t finalized until January after the fall sports were finished.
Next year’s athletic budget is proposed to be $25,000 less than this year’s, Gemma said. North Tahoe will have $137,694 to spend and Truckee will have $144,073 to spend in 1999-2000, Folsom said.
“If sports have to get cut, then it better be through a consensus. If they’re not going to be cut, then more fund-raising is needed,” Gemma said.
That is what happens with North Tahoe High and Middle School’s music program, Van Epps said.
“That’s what we told the music program. We don’t want you to cut your programs, but this is what we have,” she said.
Currently, the band programs at the two schools receive $5,000 each, with 50 percent of the middle school students taking band and about 20 percent of the high school students in band.
The FAN Club raises about $25,000 a year for sheet music, several competitions and travel expenses to those competitions. The parent club additionally raised over $25,000 last year to fund a second music teacher at the middle school, she said.
“I feel like it was an equitable comparison and I don’t think that it’s being treated equitably,” Van Epps said.
She said last spring it was decided that a temporary solution to the band problem would be for the FAN Club to fund a teacher and the long-term solution was to include the need for a second NTMS band teacher in the budget development.
But in all the needs identified and prioritized by the schools, staff and administrators for the 1999-2000 year, the band position has not reached the top priorities, she said.
“To date, the need to reduce class size at fourth and fifth grade is much higher on the priority list over the need to furnish a second teacher at the middle school,” she said.
And now, the sports teams at one high school is further impacting the budget and the $30,000 is being taken out of the general fund.
If we had it today why didn’t we have it last spring for the music program?” she asked after the board meeting.
North Tahoe Middle School is working on its schedule for next year, which Principal Dave Curry said “shouldn’t have any negative impact on the band program.”
Another music teacher would be helpful, but one teacher could handle all the students wanting to take band, Curry said.
“You would be able to accommodate any kid who wanted to take band,” said TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma.
But there are many students who would like to take more than one band class and that may not be able to happen if a second band teacher is not hired at the school, Van Epps said.
“There’s always a need,” Curry said, explaining that most of the fifth-graders coming to the middle school want to take band next year. “In the same vein, I could use more reading teachers.”
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