Thursday, July 8, 2010

A minimum of $45k needed to sustain suspended sports

CUTLINE: Greenville businessman SB Buck speaks to the panel Wednesday during the sports forum.

GREENVILLE — At a community sports forum Wednesday night at the Washington County Convention Center, community members and leaders found out the price to revive six axed sports: at least $45,000.
During the event, which was facilitated by Dr. Ilean Richards, of the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation, the public got a chance to voice their concerns, pledge donations and brainstorm ideas to save baseball, tennis, golf, soccer, slow-pitch softball and powerlifitng, which were suspended last month due to a $163,000 cut in the athletic budget.
Beforehand, Dr. Harvey Franklin, Greenville school superintendent, laid it out straight for the modest-sized crowd regarding the financial state of the district.
“Tax dollars can’t support (the suspended sports). The well has run dry, folks,” Franklin told an estimated crowd of about 70. “We don’t have the money.
“You’re going deeper and deeper in debt. Someone is going to take this district away. I’m being truthful, folks.”
During the meeting, several community leaders spoke about the importance of sports and the need for athletics in a school district badgered by a 90 percent poverty rate, according to Franklin.
“I see too many boys and girls walking around without anything to do. It’s our responsibility...somebody helped us along the way,” retired Coleman High and Mississippi Valley State coach Davis Weathersby told the panel. “I’m standing here today, (but) if it wasn’t for my high school coach, I wouldn’t be standing here. He put me in his car and carried me to college, didn’t charge me (anything), with two pair of pants and two t-shirts.
“He helped me and I’m willing to reach back and help someone else.”
Several others let their voices he heard during the forum, including two recent Greenville-Weston High graduates who earned athletic scholarships.
“We’re begging the community to keep these sports,” said Jimmetta Williams, a 2009 GWHS graduate and Hinds Community College tennis player. “If you suspend sports, they’re going to be on the streets doing nothing.”
S.B. Buck, who along with two others have proposed to voluntarily take over the tennis program, also spoke to the panel.
“We have placed 17 kids in college in 10 years. How many have you placed in basketball? How many in football,” Buck asked the panel. “This is the 32nd year (that) I’ve coached tennis and I hate to see the district just drop it.
“We’re going to put together whatever it takes to keep the tennis program going.”
But the sport that has been getting the most attention is baseball. If the suspension holds, GWHS will be the only 6A program without a baseball team. The sport has a $25,275 budget, but a minimal of $11,675 is needed to sustain the sport for the upcoming term.
People are needed in the stands on gamedays, Franklin told the crowd.
“Our attendance at baseball games are minimal, almost none,” he said.
Franklin also stated that area native and former NFL player Cleo Montgomery has pledged $10,000. Another $35,575 is needed before school starts August 4.
Several possibilities were brought up including school dances, concerts, car washes and fish fry’s, among other things.
MVSU will be hosting three of their home football games at GWHS this season. That’s another way to raise funds, said Franklin.
“How many of us will be at the concession stands? How many of us will park cars? How many are willing to do that” Franklin asked the crowd. “We could make between $10,000 to $20,000.”
Concerned citizen James Davis said the best way to save the programs is to get churches involved.
Franklin agreed.
“We have 155 churches (in the area). If we get $1,000 from each that’s $155,000,” he said.
Several people in attendance pledged to give funds to suspended programs, including Rep. John Hines, who said he has already raised $600 and will foot $400 out of his own pocket.
The minimum amount of $45,575 would only suffice for one year. More funds will be needed in the future. And the school district is facing more cuts, so the chances of the district solely funding the suspended sports later on is unlikely, said Franklin.
“The tough times are not in (2010-11),” he said. “There are no more stimulus funds after Sept. 3, 2011. After that date, we have nothing. If you think we had to cut this year, it’s really going to be bad next year.
The budget worksheet given out by the district included an idea of charging $3 to get into softball, baseball and soccer games Selling annual baseball and softball ads, costing $500 each, was also an idea listed.
The projected income, with an estimated 50 paid fans at each game and 10 sold ads? $9,500.
“Unless (President Barack Obama) comes up with a stimulus, more cuts will come.”
Near the end of the forum, Richards announced the next step in the process. There will be a meeting next Friday, July 16, at 10 a.m. at the Greenville Higher Education Center to come up with a committee, and iron out all the details.

Cost Breakdown

Boys Soccer
Total cost: $13,000
Minimum needed: $7,400

Girls Soccer
Total cost: $13,000
Minimum needed: $7,400

Total cost: 10,200
Minimum needed: $6,100

Total cost: $5,920
Minimum needed: $3,100

Slow-Pitch Softball
Toal cost: $12,700
Minimum needed: $7,100

Total cost: $25,275
Mininum needed: $11,675

Toal cost: $5,620
Minimum needed: $2,800

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