By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express
---- — The Knoxville Schools’ Athletics Budget was once again discussed in depth Monday night, with the school board eventually choosing to keep the budget at the same level it currently is (approximately $104,000).
The board reviewed a decision made in 2008 when issues with the athletics budget began to come into the limelight. At that time, the budget had a negative fund balance of over $250,000. The board committed to allocating $25,000 a year for 10 years from the general fund to the athletic fund.
However, it was around this time that economic troubles hit the country, and Knoxville Schools were not immune. After making only one $25,000 transfer to the general fund, the board did no others. Business Manager Craig Mobley said the issues with the athletics budget go back for decades.
“I don’t want people to think this is a brand new problem,” Mobley said. The issue has been brought to the forefront. Mobley believes the problem needs to be solved, as the negative fund balance is over the $250,000 figure from 2008.
The balance is negative, despite several expenditures for athletics coming from the general fund, outside of the figure set aside for athletics. Coaches’ salaries and other expenses have come from the general fund. Mobley did not have figures available before our deadline.
Determining what the athletics budget should be can be difficult. According to Mobley, just a few years ago, revenues from athletics were over $110,000. In the last fiscal year, that figure is around $90,000.
Board member Tim McDonald saw the loss that occurred this year. He is supportive of athletics and extra curricular activities, but wonders how much longer the district can continue to spend money when revenue is decreasing.
“Right now, I don’t think we can,” McDonald said. He respects how hard parents and students work to raise funds for their sports, but is concerned that they may not work as hard if their favorite sport does not directly benefit.
Mobley said the amount of money available for fund raising in Knoxville is limited. McDonald agreed.
“There is a finite amount of money we can raise,” McDonald said.
Even if a group is raising funds for a specific sport, the money belongs to the Knoxville School District to be used how the district sees fit. Mobley added that money raised through fund raising is not used to buy safety equipment. The district is already required to pay for those items.
Board Vice President Mike Helle believes admission revenue to sporting events is tied to a team’s performance. He used the girls’ basketball team’s appearance at the State Basketball Tournament in 2010 as an example.
“Your basketball gates were much better,” Helle said. “Success does have something to do with income. If we had more successful teams, that would help, somewhat.”
Board President Leslie Miller said the board may have to consider cutting less popular sports if the trend continues. Mobley does not believe that cutting a sport will have much impact on the budget because less popular sports are not as expensive as others.
Miller also suggested looking into the number of free passes given to staff and others. The district provides free admission to those age 62 and older to events, but the board is not willing to change that policy.
Superintendent Randy Flack said there are community members willing to work with Activities Director Randy Wilson to improve the athletics budget. Wilson did not attend Monday’s meeting. Mobley has met with Wilson to try to create a more detailed budget to see if cuts can be made. McDonald believes that if coaches were given a more specific, restricted budget, they may make better fiscal decisions within their own sports.
Regardless of the plans for the future, the board had to set the athletics budget Monday night.
“I don’t think you can increase the budget,” Flack said. “The best you can do is to leave it where it is.”
Helle made the motion to keep the budget at the same level. The motion passed unanimously.
“We have to get to the point where we’re not spending more than we take in,” Mobley said. The key for the district is controlling expenses.