School board debates non-revenue sports funding

By Nicole Daughhetee
Staff Reporter

COUNTY — Funding for “non-revenue” sports has been a topic of discussion in the School District of Pickens County for the past few months.

A request from school board trustee Judy Edwards put non-revenue sports back on the agenda at Monday night’s meeting, where the board voted unanimously to modify a prior motion that stipulated high schools had to spend their $15,000 allotment of funds before they could receive a dollar-for-dollar match from the district.

The motion, amended by SDPC board chair Alex Saitta, and unanimously voted through, states that that the high schools have the option to spend up to $15,000 in non-revenue sports equipment in 2012-2013. It is no longer a mandate that they have to spend the entire $15,000. They can spend any part of it and still receive a dollar-for-dollar match from the district.

Now at the center of non-revenue sports funding is the debate over who should decide how and where the money is spent. Should those decisions be made by the schools’ athletic directors and coaches of the particular sports, or should board trustees dictate how the allotted $15,000 is used?

Saitta said he believes non-revenue sports funding should be spent on equipment only.

“Anything that has to do with the play on the field,” he said. “Is the clock running and the game going on while they’re using it? You have to define it somehow.

“A goal post is a fixture. A bat and ball would be considered equipment, because they are used on the field of play.”

Board member Dr. Herb Cooper asked SDPC superintendent Kelly Pew for her opinion on the matter.

“What I’m concerned about is getting input from the athletic directors and coaches about what they would like to spend the money on. I don’t have a problem giving money, but the problem is, are we going to dictate how they are going to use it?” asked Cooper. “I want to make sure that the people who are involved — the coaches and athletic directors — have a say in how the money is spent. I don’t think a board member coming up with his idea on how the money should be spent is the best idea.”

Pew explained that coordinator of student services Bobby Skelton is currently in the process of meeting with and interviewing every coach in the district. With more than 60 coaches in the district, the process will most likely be completed by the beginning of November.

“He is asking about specific needs,” said Pew. “Just in my conversation with the athletic directors from the four schools, they’ve talked specifically at Liberty and Pickens about the great expense of non-revenue travel.”

Edwards and fellow trustee Jimmy Gillespie asked Saitta if it would be possible to amend the motion once the board received Skelton’s report based on the needs of the coaches and athletic directors.

“This is an ongoing process,” said Gillespie. “The main issue is on matching the money dollar-for-dollar.”

Saitta said that motions can be made at any time down the road.

“Mr. Skelton could come back in November, and I don’t know how you feel, but I’d say ‘hey that’s wonderful, we’ll do it next year,’” said Saitta. “You know. We’ll take care of it next year. This year we’re going to do equipment.”

Furthermore, Saitta believes that the athletic directors and coaches do have flexibility when it comes to the non-revenue sport funding allotments.

“It’s a match if they want to do it or not. They don’t have to spend any money,” said Saitta. “They have a choice.”

Before she would vote for Saitta’s motion, however, Edwards wanted clarity on the board’s ability to revisit the motion at any time.

“If we were to pass this motion saying that they can spend it a little at a time, can we come back later and, if they need for other things, can we add that to this motion?” she asked.

Saitta’s response: “You can change it any time you want. My motion is to force the flow of the money. If the district is going to give the money, we should have some say over where it goes and how it is spent. You’re saying the coach should have a say in how the money is spent. That is a step further. That goes into the management. That is something the board can do. I know there are needs for transportation and field maintenance, but I would look at that next year.”
New SDPC high schools who spent funding on non-revenue sports prior to July 1, 2012 are not eligible to receive a match in funding from the district.