Athletic programs at high school district absorb cutbacks

By Marsha Sutton

Contributor

The severity of education funding cuts at the state level has forced the San Dieguito Union High School District to trim budgets in all areas, including athletics. The belt-tightening, which began several years ago, continues into this year and the next, according to district officials who said their primary objective is to protect classroom learning.

Direct costs for athletics in 2009-2010 were about $1.33 million, down from $2 million the previous year. Athletic departments are prepared to experience a prolonged downward trend.

“The reason for that is we’ve cut back significantly,” said Rick Schmitt, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of educational services. “We’ve cut coaches, we’ve cut allowance, we’ve really scaled back just like we have in every other area of the district.”

Schmitt said that 24 coaching positions were eliminated in 2009-2010. Although no positions were affected in the current school year, another 20 will be cut next year.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s not a coach in the program,” he said. “What typically happens in our community is they raise money and the foundation picks up the costs.”

Torrey Pines High School and La Costa Canyon High School will each be required to eliminate six coaching positions next year, while Canyon Crest Academy and San Dieguito Academy, neither of which offer football or cheer, will each need to cut four.

“Middle schools do not have an athletics budget, as their after-school athletics is handled by the Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito,” said SDUHSD’s associate superintendent for business services, Eric Dill, in an email.

A breakdown was provided by Schmitt of the athletic costs in a 2008-2009 study, which showed that the district spent $2 million in hard costs and another $800,000 in soft costs. In addition, athletics benefited from about $2 million in donations that year.

The district’s $2 million in direct costs included: $761,000 in coach salaries and stipends, $242,000 in benefits, $110,000 for field maintenance and upkeep, $91,000 for repairs and equipment replacement, and a number of other miscellaneous costs that included transportation and registration and tournament fees.

The following year, in 2009-2010, the district’s direct costs for athletics dropped to $1.33 million, which was spent on the following: $714,000 on coaches, $112,000 on benefits, and the remainder on contracts, fees, transportation and other expenses.

According to Dill, the district’s $714,000 allocation for coaches’ salaries was divided among the schools as follows: $211,000 for La Costa Canyon, $209,000 for Torrey Pines, $147,000 for San Dieguito Academy, and $146,000 for Canyon Crest Academy.

The district’s “soft costs” – about $800,000 in 2008-2009 – were defined as shared expenses to pay groundspeople to care for the fields and athletic surfaces. But not all their costs were related to extra-curricular athletics because this work benefited not just after-school sports but all students who use the fields and courts for regular daily physical education instruction, Schmitt said.

“We took a little piece of their salary because they spent some significant time depending on the season doing [after-school athletics],” Schmitt said.

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