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Education budget cuts could affect athletics

When Pinellas County school superintendent Howard Hinesley announced $32.1-million in budget cuts Thursday, athletics received a slash and a warning.

Hinesley eliminated the activities director position from each Pinellas high school and alluded to further cuts in the athletic budget. Activities directors _ known as athletic directors in other counties _ supervise athletics in each high school, overseeing everything from scheduling to eligibility.

Hinesley said an assistant principal would assume those duties. But those duties are uncertain because the future of the athletic program is unknown. If athletics are cut, the duties will change.

The fate of the athletic programs is expected to be known next month.

"Our budget process will continue in March as we begin to evaluate other parts of the budget, like athletics," Hinesley said on Thursday. "Therefore, just because we've not mentioned those programs during this recommendation, does not mean that we plan to continue those programs as the status quo.

"We'll be evaluating each of these programs, and it will be necessary to make other budget reductions if our predictions (about the shortage of state education funding) become true."

Bob Hosack, Pinellas County director of athletics, said he didn't know about any decision to reduce the sports program.

"At this time, nothing's been cut. All there is is speculation," Hosack said. "It depends on the (state) Legislature. If (there is less money), such things as athletic teams and other programs will have to be cut."

Activities directors remained in the dark.

"We don't know what is going to happen. It was a surprise what they did to us," said Dixie Hollins activities director Donna Blumer, who may have to return to teaching next year.