Athletics will be on the budget cut firing line

Governor Scott Walker’s cuts in funding to Wisconsin schools has put every program in every school district budget up for review on whether they are worthy of being continued.
You can bet athletics will get its share of attention, and probably more attention than it deserves, when these cuts have to be made.
In many school districts, athletics accounts for 1 percent of the district’s budget or even less. Yet, athletics will be an easy target because it is one of the most visible uses of school district money that the public sees.
Let’s hope schools don’t have to do anything as drastic as cutting all their athletic programs. Hopefully, where cuts are needed, they can find ways to streamline programs and trim off the edges without making full-scale program cuts.
There are a number of ways schools will look to make sports pay for themselves more equitably. Travel limitations are an option. Cutting down on game schedules might be another option. Instead of using the maximum number of games allowable by the WIAA, it may come to the point where schools cut a percentage of games out of every schedule.
This is an action that could also be taken by the WIAA. The WIAA has approved a number of increases in season schedules. Perhaps its time for the WIAA to rescind some of those schedule additions.
The WIAA can also help to limit athletics costs. One easy change would be going back to two officials for varsity basketball games. Whether there’s been improvement with three officials is agruable. WIAA Board of Control representative Mark Gobler said the WIAA would only consider making this change if it comes from a member school. The Board of Control won’t make this decision on its own.
If the WIAA doesn’t make this move, conference administrators could certainly elect to make the move, which would give uniformity to their conference.
While asking the WIAA to make changes is a less painful step, taxpayers will the main changes to be done locally. Middle school sports are vulnerable, to say the least. Athletic fees are sure to rise.
More volunteerism may be expected as a way to cut costs. Somerset is an example of an athletic program that doesn’t pay workers at any of its games. This is all done by volunteers, everything from taking tickets to selling concessions. If parents want their children in sports, volunteering more of their time will likely be one of the costs.

3 thoughts on “Athletics will be on the budget cut firing line

  1. I would like WIAA to quit having non-conference games, and come up with another way of seeding. Especially in basketball, the games are so far away-it is too expensive to continue.

  2. Frank, the individual schools schedule non-conference games. There is nothing that says a school has to play a minimum number of games.

  3. There is no reason, under any level of budget constraints, to cut high school sports to save money. This action is always trotted out as one of the first options in any proposal but believe me, it is a red herring. Parents and boosters will turn out en mass to complain and fight to keep the status quo. In reality, the athletic and activities budget in any school district is a very small part of the total budget and you can’t cut enough out of sports to make any real difference in the whole district budget. The school district administration likes to throw reductions in athletics’ budget into any plan so that everyone focuses on that and forgets about all of the fat that does exist in the budget. That way, the administration doesn’t have to focus on decisions like actually cutting staff that would save some serious money. Districts have to start making structural changes (aka changing how they deliver education which may entail cutting staff ) and quit trying to save serious money by making “soft” changes like cutting athletics.

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