Sports budget slimming down in Friendswood ISD
State budget cuts are forcing the Friendswood Independent School District to look at reducing security at football games and eliminating funding for non-University Interscholastic League sports such as lacrosse.
In addition, the district is expected to cease paying for letter jackets, but will stop short of eliminating any programs.
Football will see a $11,000 cut this year, athletic director Steve Van Meter said, but he believes the cuts will have little impact on the team. The district is looking at reducing the entire athletic budget by $40,000 as it comes up with a budget for the 2011-12 school year that accommodates sharp cuts in state funding.
The most visible change might be the security presence at home football games.
Typically, the district hires between 14 and 16 off-duty police officers to work games, at a cost of about $1,400 a game, Van Meter told school board members at the May 13 board meeting. He recommended cutting the number of officers in half.
Superintendent Trish Hanks said the district might want to consider charging $2 per vehicle to park at football games.
Trustee Tony Hopkins suggested even higher pricing.
"I think if you sold reserve parking spots right outside the stadium, you could get a lot more than $2," Hopkins said, noting he had brought the idea up in the past and been criticized for it.
The school district must make up a $4 million shortfall in state funding. The district already has eliminated about 30 teaching positions through attrition.
Not just Friendswood
Other area districts are feeling the same pinch.
The Pearland school district is considering cuts to the athletic budget, but isn't considering eliminating any programs.
"Even with the cuts being considered, the athletic director anticipates that all sports programs will remain intact and any cuts will be absorbed without affecting the number of teams participating," said Pearland ISD spokeswoman Courtney Bajusz.
The Alvin school district isn't considering any cuts in athletic budgets at this point in the process, said district spokeswoman Shirley Brothers.
Letter jacket savings
In the Friendswood school district, about $15,000 will be saved by the district no longer paying for letter jackets for varsity high school athletes, Van Meter said.
Friendswood will also eliminate most road trips greater than 50 miles, though some, such as this year's football game at West Orange-Stark, are already contracted and can't be avoided.
The district will allow longer trips if the sport's booster clubs can make up the added cost.
The district will limit its varsity golf teams to tournaments costing $250 or less, Van Meter said. He said some courses are charging as much as $450, or $90 per player for a five-member team.
"Those courses really don't want our players," he said.
The sub-varsity travel squad will be reduced from eight to five players.
The district will pull all funding from non UIL-sanctioned sports, including lacrosse, swimming and co-ed soccer at the junior high, and lacrosse, gymnastics and water polo at the high school.
The district had been paying some transportation costs.
Hanks said she was considering a $25 per player fee to cover transportation for those sports.
All participants in any sport currently pay a participation fee of $150 a year to help defray costs.
Lacrosse is growing in popularity, Van Meter noted, and might soon be sanctioned by the UIL.
"I think lacrosse is a great thing," Van Meter said. "Not everybody wants to be a football player."
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