NKSD athletics program trimming the fiscal fat

NORTH END — As greenbacks become an endangered species, and budget woes continue to build, all North Kitsap School District programs must do their part to trim what little unnecessary fat is left.

The NKSD Athletics and co-curricular programs weren’t immune to the trimming blade, as they had to shave or generate revenues to the tune of $151,000.

Athletic participation fees, which currently stand at $60 for high school sports and $35 for middle school sports, generate approximately $80,000 in revenues.

To chip away at the remaining $71,000 void, the co-curricular transportation budget will be reduced by $36,200 and unfilled coaching positions that can be eliminated will save approximately $11,500.

This drops the need to trim number to $23,000, and it all depends on the status of the pool.

If the pool closes then the athletic programs zero out, however, if it remains open then the $23,000 must be raised or shaved, say NKSD Athletic Director Trish Olson and Executive Director of Student Support Services Greg Epperson.

If the pool remains open, to accommodate for the additional $23,000, the suggestion is to raise participation fees by $15 at both levels.

“If there’s no swimming then we’re at zero because we don’t have to fund the coaches and transportation,” Olson said. “We don’t want to cut swimming. We absolutely don’t. We want it open. If the pool is open we want to recommend swimming and increase participation fees by $15.”

At the last board meeting, Epperson presented the board with two options — option A: keep the pool open and raise the fees; option B: close the pool and retain the current fee structure.

“This was never about our trying to eliminate the swim program. We only went there because if we don’t have swimming we’re not spending those expenditures,” Epperson said. “Our goal is to create as many athletic options for kids. The challenge is the budget.”

Regardless, it’s downright difficult.

While nobody wants to see the pool closed, nobody likes raised fees either.

The Athletics and Activity Committee (ACC) had five meetings to hash out solutions and proposals.

“Our main goal was to keep fees where they’re at without raising them,” said AAC member and Kingston High School parent Robin Bishop.

Bishop said to freeze fees at the current level the committee came up with money saving alternatives— eliminating unfilled or excess coaching positions, not hiring an assistant athletic trainer at both high schools would save approximately $15,000 and paying to play three sports instead of two.

However, the fate of the pool is the deal breaker.

“Obviously if the pool is kept open fees will go up for everyone and I can understand that and I don’t think we should close the pool,” said AAC member and Kingston High School parent Ellen Anderson. “If the pool is closed I don’t want to see fees raised. We might need to make some adjustments for how far we travel to keep the participation fees low.”

But when it came time to vote, district staff and coaches voted in favor of the fee increase, and the parents voted the opposite, said PTSA’s Lael Stock and Marcy Salo.

“It was skewed in that way. There’s definitely probably not enough parents on that committee,” Bishop said. “In light of the economy and gas that (fee increases) would be tough on people.”

Although fees haven’t yet increased, if they do rise, NKSD is one of many area school districts charging or raising pay to play fees.

“Nobody likes participation fees, including athletic coordinators,” Olson said. “But it’s a reality we’re living with.”

Another possible change facing NKSD’s Athletic programs is the elimination of C teams.

Olson said offering C teams doesn’t just depend on student interest, but also if there’s competition available within the league or close geographical proximity. She said all the athletic directors she spoke to who are also facing budget woes said the first thing being dropped from their programs is the C teams.

“This leads us to believe that C teams can be an endangered species,” she said. “And if North Kitsap retains those we’re going to be in a position where we have no one to play.”

Olson said only a few schools in the league offer volleyball and baseball C teams, but things are favorable for football C teams. However, she said the AAC recommends offering C teams if there’s interest and league competition.

In light of depressing budget deficits and cuts, there’s still good news to be found: No varsity athletic programs have been cut and next year gymnastics, swimming and golf will be offered separately at both high schools.

Fee increases, athletic program cuts or not, one thing remains set in stone: Student interest in sports is high.

According to numbers provided by Olson, in the 2007-08 sports season more than 500 KHS students played, more than 700 NKHS students participated, and more than 300 students at both Kingston and Poulsbo middle schools turned out.

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