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Pasco budget may slice into schedules and staff, but not programs

With the recent budget crunch, the Pasco County School Board has no plans to eliminate athletic programs, but reductions in contests and coaching cuts are on the table.

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Golf and cross country face the greatest change with proposals to reduce each sport by two matches/meets and to eliminate one coaching job, leaving one paid coach to oversee both boys and girls teams. The proposed athletic budget cuts are 5 percent, or roughly $76,000.

Other varsity sports facing a two-contest reduction are swimming, track and weightlifting. Major varsity sports such as football, basketball, baseball and softball were not mentioned.

Junior varsity sports such as basketball, volleyball and wrestling could lose as many as four contests, while JV soccer, baseball, softball and wrestling could each lose two contests. Officials also are considering eliminating diving coaches for swimming.

The proposed cuts will be hashed out over the next few weeks with the next meeting likely in June.

There were still plenty of questions floating around Wednesday morning as coaches searched for clarification as to what constituted a contest or if they could make up the difference financially through independent revenue streams such as booster clubs.

School board chairwoman Kathryn Starkey made it clear she hoped other sources of revenue would help rescue athletics.

"I know a number of the schools have let booster clubs go by the wayside," Starkey said. "I think at a time like this if we want meaningful athletics, the public should step up."

Assistant superintendent Jim Davis also suggested an increase in entry fees to athletic events.

Hudson swim coach Julie Heise said she understands the financial hardships the county faces. She lost her teaching job in 1979 in Ohio when a chunk of the population migrated away from the Pennsylvania-Ohio border region after the steel mills closed.

"I was just starting my career and I was single," Heise said. "I didn't understand it then as much as I understand it now."

Athletics, at least those away from the varsity level, have been pinched in the past. Pasco County, for example, eliminated its high school freshmen-only teams and combined separate seventh and eighth-grade teams at the middle school level five years ago in the budgetary fallout from the class size amendment. It restored seventh-grade teams two years ago.

In Hernando County, schools do not anticipate a big financial hit from the state's budget woes. Schools will receive the same amount of money from the school district as last year, mainly for transportation costs.

"They're asking for more," Hernando County School Board finance director Deborah Bruggink said, "but we're not giving anymore."

Times staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this report. Izzy Gould can be reached at izzygould@gmail.com or (727) 580-5315.

Pasco budget may slice into schedules and staff, but not programs 05/21/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 10:54am]
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