After two straight years of only funding one season of middle school athletics, the Seaford Board of Education is exploring cutting the entire program in 2013/14 due to a $1.5 million budget shortfall the district is facing in order to comply with new tax cap rules.
During Thursday night’s school board work session meeting, the trustees discussed the possibility of having an intramural sports program instead interscholastic athletics as a way of saving expenses on travel and coaches. Seaford Superintendent of Schools Brian Conboy estimated that an intramural program for the fall, winter and spring would cost somewhere in the range of $30,000 to $40,000 and he would find out exact figures for the next board meeting scheduled for April 2. Running a full-fledged Seaford Middle School athletics program costs around $200,000, according to previous budget estimates from district officials.
"This is not a fun process," said Seaford Board of Education President Brian Fagan during Thursday night's meeting when discussing potential progam cuts for next year including middle school athletics. "These are difficult times."
For the current 2012/13 school year, only the spring sports season at Seaford Middle School was funded, but parents were able to fundraise for fall sports and a winter intramural program. The previous year, fall middle school sports were included in the budget and parents raised enough funds for winter athletics before of salvaging the spring season.
Seaford Athletic Director Tom Condon said during a presentation at Thursday’s school board meeting that not having all the Seaford Middle School sports up and running the last two years has negatively affected turnout for junior varsity teams at the high school. He said the winter intramural sports have attracted many students but that it is more of a “casual” atmosphere than when it is an organized team structure.
Seaford assistant varsity wrestling coach Neil Murray expressed concerns in the public comments portion of Thursday’s meeting about a lack of middle school middle school athletics negatively impacting sports at the high school level including his program. He said an intramural program is not sufficient enough.
“If you don’t have competition, if you don’t have the camaraderie of team and kids working together for a common goal, rooting each other on, experiencing success, experiencing defeat, it’s not the same,” said Coach Murray. “You need the team atmosphere, you need the competition.”
When factoring in required payments to the Teacher's Retirement System, Seaford is permitted a 3.56 percent tax levy increase for the 2013/14 school year. An initial draft budget of $63.1 million in December has been reduced by $1.7 million with an additional $1.5 million needed to meet the tax cap number.
The district has been exploring the possibility of dropping to eight period days at Seaford High School and Seaford Middle School, but principals from both schools who spoke at Thursday night’s meeting said such a move would create major challenges in meeting the needs of students.
Conboy said Thursday that he will know more about what kind of state aid Seaford will get for next year when Albany lawmakers finalize a budget over the weekend. An executive budget proposal released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January had Seaford losing 6.88 percent in state aid, but Conboy has expressed hope that those numbers will improve in the final state spending plan.
The next budget discussion is scheduled for April 2 with Director of Facilities Andrew Ward scheduled to speak. An additional school board meeting devoted to the budget is scheduled for April 4 with April 11 targeted as when a proposed spending plan will be adopted.
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