JOHNSTOWN — The Northridge Local School District found a short-term solution to a long-term problem Monday night.
At the first board of education meeting of 2009, two proposals were made — one by the Athletic Boosters and another by the Music Boosters — to restore the spring activities previously cut due to budget constraints. After nearly three hours of discussion, the proposals were conditionally passed by the board by a 4-1 vote, meaning those activities will be restored. Board vice president Larry Porter was the only dissenting vote.
“The community, with the help of the boosters, has reinstated the spring activities,” said board president Troy Willeke. “It is because of their efforts that we are able to do this.”
The Athletic Boosters’ proposal, presented by director Wayne Howard, calls for an increase in the district’s pay-to-participate fees to help generate some of the $26,383 needed. In addition, the board agreed to appropriate $10,000 from the athletic department fund to help cover the costs, but made it clear the boosters must pay up front before any contract would be signed.
“We are very pleased for this,” said Howard. “It shows how this community has come together, especially the coaches and the administrators who have worked so hard. It is amazing.
“My concern is the message this portrays. This was not something where the board came up with hidden money. That was not the case. We were down to arguing about nickels and dimes, really. There was no money in the general fund to support it, so we had to come up with the money through the boosters.”
The boosters will pay $16,383 up front, then be reimbursed a portion from the pay-to-participate proceeds.
“We have to limit our financial exposure. Having the check [from the boosters] protects us,” Willeke said. “It is a safety net. The goal is to do no damage to the programs, no damage to the boosters and no damage to the district.”
Although the largest portion of the funds was needed to keep the athletic programs afloat, Willeke made it known that the board wasn’t only concerned with sports.
“I want to be very clear that it is all or nothing,” said Willeke. “This is not only about the sports programs. We need to ensure that everything is there. We said from the outset that this is not about one activity.”
That’s where the Music Boosters came in. Their proposal added another $5,106 toward the general fund to cover the stipend of the school vocal director and the school band director, and some of the miscellaneous expenses needed by other spring activities.
Even with the money earmarked, there was still a $3,611 deficit. But, thanks to $1,000 donations by the Football Boosters, Volleyball Boosters and Soccer Boosters, that amount was trimmed down. Another donation by board member Anne Cox, as well as a commitment from the PTO, gave the board enough to reinstate the activities.
Porter explained his decision to vote against the proposals.
“I appreciate the effort I see in the community to come up with the funds to bring back these spring activities,” said Porter, “but there are still questions. One is who is going to clean up these buildings? I laid off custodians that clean our floors and bathrooms because we did not have enough money. I laid off good people. It is great we rallied and came up with enough money to hold our spring activities, but I haven’t seen any offers to bring back our custodians.
“I haven’t seen any offers to pay the utility bills. … I appreciate everybody rallying, but what message are we giving to the public? We came up with a few bucks, but I’m looking at a budget of $13 million. This $50,000 is pocket change. … What about the livelihood of the janitorial staff and secretaries I had to lay off at Christmas? How about coming up with money for those people?”
Despite the passage of the proposals, one thing was clear: Without a passage of a new levy in May, the district will be facing drastic cuts, including all extracurricular activities, next school year.
“We are doing this for spring 2009 and spring 2009 only,” said Willeke. “If we do not pass a levy in May, there will be no fall sports, no extracurricular activities or co-curricular activities. It will be the doors close at 4:30 and that’s the end. We cannot go without the money we so dearly need.”
“There will also be additional cuts to our curriculum,” he added. “We want to be up front. This comes down to money we don’t have. … We have to come up with the money to educate our children. That’s why we are here. It is about our children, and we have to get that message out.”