Budget shows fairness

Published 8:53 am Thursday, September 24, 2015

maroon tide band

playing in the band: Although the band does get less money from year to year, they do get more money based on needs, or if the football team sells tickets.

At the Picayune School Board Meeting Tuesday, Vice Chairperson Frank Feeley addressed allegations that the school district was spending more on sports programs than other extra-curricular activities.

“It seems like we got people in this community who like to beat us over the head on how we’re spending money,” he said.

Feeley said in a phone interview after the meeting that a letter-to-the-editor in the Picayune Item that advocated for more spending for non-athletic activities had caused some people to ask him how much the district is spending on sports.

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During the meeting, Feeley presented budgets from the district’s finance office that showed how much the district spent since 2012 on non-athletic programs. Over a three-year period, the district has spent more than a $250 million.

The band alone has cost the district $203,482 through travel, supplies,

uniforms, equipment and more. The second-highest program has been drama, which has been given $40,521 since 2012.

None of these numbers include salaries, according to Lisa Persick, the district’s director of finance.

Feeley did not include any costs of athletic programs. In response, the Picayune Item requested that budget from the school’s finance office and while the district does spend more on its athletic programs, it doesn’t spend much more. In some years, it even spends less on athletics than on non-athletic programs. This is due to a number of factors, mainly some programs, like band, have occasionally expensive years where they have to buy new uniforms. Also, when a Maroon Tide team does well and packs the seats game after game, the general athletic fund swells from ticket sales, which means the district puts in less money.

Since 2012, the school district has spent $297,915 on all its athletics programs, although this budget does not include field maintenance. The district has spent $271,048 for all non-athletic programs. But if the numbers appear not too far apart, the funding trends for athletic and non-athletic programs are going in opposite directions.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the district spent $108,991 on non-athletic programming—more than it spent on its sports programs.

That year the district only spent $82,178 on athletics programs. The year after that, the district spent $125,416 on athletics and then most recently, in 2014-2015, the district spent $90,3321.

But football, unlike, say, the theater program, has other sources of revenue, so the district’s fluctuations may not be so extreme. The recently laid new artificial field at the Maroon Tide Stadium was paid for largely through community donations and, in part, by the city.

In addition, as Feeley pointed out at Tuesday’s meeting, the team brings in money through concession sales and ticket sales once a week.

“We played two high school football games here and those games brought in $14,000 to the school,” he said.

To be clear, the money from does not go toward the school district’s general fund. The sale of concessions goes toward the booster club, and the ticket sales go toward a general athletic fund called an 1152 fund, said Persick.

“When the 1152 run shorts … then that’s what the district is contributing to the program,” said Persick.

This means when the football team does well and draws more of a crowd, the less the district will spend on athletics.

Feeley explained later in an interview it is in this way that football actually helps the non-athletic programs.

“It does put money into the school budget, because then the school does not have to put money into the athletic budget,” he said.

So, while in some years the district’s contribution to the athletic budget appears low, that does not mean the programs are necessarily underfunded.

Even the non-athletic budgets aren’t easy to unwrap. According to the totals Feeley handed out, their budgets have been declining steadily since 2012, from $108, 991that year to $70,310 in 2014-2015. Yet one of the most obvious reasons for the decline is new band uniforms were bought in the past two school years that totaled $43,433 and were not purchased in 2014-2015.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Feeley said he wanted to make sure everyone is aware the district does not play favorites.

“I just wanted to point that out in an open meeting that we’re equally funding everything in the school district as best we can,” he said. “So for people to just blast us without facts is pretty absurd in my opinion, and as a board member, I’m not going to let people do that without the facts. … Yes, we’re funding football and basketball and football but were funding other programs.”

The athletic program includes 45 different programs such as varsity, junior varsity and middle school football programs, varsity, junior varsity and middle school girls’ and boys’ basketball programs, powerlifting, boys’ and girls’ bowling, varsity boys’ and girls’ soccer, JV boys’ and girls’ soccer, varsity, JV and middle school baseball, boys’ and girls’ archery, varsity softball, JV softball, eighth and seventh grade softball, high school and junior high boys’ and girls’ track, track, golf, and boys’ and girls’ tennis.

The school’s non-athletic programs include band, the high school and junior high school dance teams, the chorus/show choir, the theater program, the NJROTC program and three cheerleading programs.