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Athletic budget cuts will be tough to tackle

Local high school coaches agree that budget cuts of 25 percent in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s athletic programs for the 2004-05 school year will create a no-win situation for the community.

At the district’s May 5 school board meeting, it announced an overall budget cut of $1.4 million. Out of that, the school district will cut $68,898 from the North Tahoe and Truckee High School athletic programs. The cuts will also take another 25 percent – or $4,700 – from the two middle school programs.

As far as Truckee schools are concerned, the cuts equal close to $37,000. The problem, however, is nothing new, as California’s statewide budget crisis has caused schools around the state to face the same issues. But the key decision-makers at Truckee and North Tahoe may have to carry out some drastic actions themselves; the worst being cutting entire athletic programs.



Bob Shaffer, the Tahoe Truckee High School athletic director and head football coach, is aware of those possibilities but said he couldn’t comment because he wasn’t sure whether drastic cuts will actually occur.

Shaffer said he and Tahoe Truckee High School Principal Mike Finney are currently trying to set up a meeting with North Tahoe representatives before the current school year ends to present some solutions. But the harsh reality is that cuts have to be made somewhere.



“The board and superintendent told us that it’s up to each school site to decide what to eliminate,” Shaffer said, “but we want some kind of conformity between the two schools. We hope to overcome this without making a severe cut in what we already have.”

Shaffer said the last thing school officials want to do is cut programs or charge higher player fees, something that has seen a dramatic rise in recent years. That financial burden carries over to parents who have to fund their children to play high school sports.

“It wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t charge kids anything,” he said. “Just the $10 or $20 to fill out the basic paper work and register. Now we’re charging $125 for each kid.”

And that charge was before the recent 25 percent budget cut. Shaffer added that each school will have to make its own decisions based on their own issues.

Besides cutting entire programs and increased player fees, athletic programs could see less transportation options and less non-league games on next year’s schedules. That’s the negative outlook for Shaffer as he looks into next football season.

“It’s obviously getting worse,” he said, adding that coaches’ stipends cannot be lowered or altered based on a union agreement.

As far as coaches are concerned, with impending budget cuts every year the burden on them continues to grow heavier to keep their particular programs running smoothly.

Truckee’s head baseball coach Jason Estabrook said he has to raise around $6,000 every year with donations from the community and service groups like the Optimist and Rotary clubs. He has also raised money through ESPN Magazine sales and team barbecues.

“We’re allocated zero dollars in the athletic budget,” Estabrook said. “I don’t know exactly, but a 25 percent cut is (most likely) going to effect transportation and umpire costs. I’m just going to try to offset any cuts they make.”

For instance, Estabrook cited cutting games in the schedule. He said he will try to raise enough money to keep a full schedule. But he admits that fretting about fundraising takes its toll and is the most stressful part of the job.

“The easiest part of this job is putting a uniform on and going out on the field,” he said. “I worry year-round about how I’m going to properly suit up my players.”

Estabrook’s main concern is the possibility of cutting programs. He said high-schoolers are hurt by a lack of activities outside of school. More free time is not always good for adolescents, he said, and athletics constitutes a major extracurricular activity.

He also said that continually asking the community to chip in is also a problem, and he can sense the frustration.

“The community probably grows tired of it.” Estabrook said. “They’re constantly being bombarded by fundraisers and donations.”

Nonetheless, the community continues to do its part, especially in Mitch Brown’s experience. He is the first-year coach of the Truckee softball team. Brown and his team had a car wash fundraiser in April and raised over $1,000.

The budget crisis, he said “is something (us coaches) have to work with. We’re a small little community in the mountains. If the community didn’t rally around the athletic programs, we’d be in a world of hurt.”

Brown, as well as girls basketball coach Angelo Tenorio, have had to raise money just to buy their teams quality uniforms in the past year.

Brown added that he sees money wasted in transportation costs, noting that over $3,000 of the softball budget was allocated for bus rides. But after each event, many players go home with their parents and don’t ride the bus ride back to Truckee. Brown said he would prefer to use vans, which cost $80 per day compared to $50 an hour for buses.

One thing everyone involved in high school sports agreed on is that the problem is something that schools, coaches, parents and the rest of the community have to deal with if they want to see local kids competing in their favorite sports. Estabrook put in simple terms.

“The athletic budget has been cut down to the bare nubs as it is. The district will argue, ‘Education is a business.’ But our comeback is, ‘You have to have a well-rounded education, and sports is a big part of that.'”

Current sports offered by Truckee High School:

Fall

– Football

– Boys and girls soccer

– Volleyball

Winter

– Boys and girls basketball

– Wrestling

– Nordic and Alpine skiing

Spring

– Baseball and softball

– Boys golf

– Track and field

– Swimming


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