Fewer volunteer coaches and an additional athletic trainer, who will work part-time for the high school on multi-event days, have the proposed Ridgefield High School athletic budget increasing to $1,305,894 in the 2014-15 school year, up from $1,244,336 in 2013-14.
“Our reliance on volunteer coaches is problematic because sometimes they come in one year and are gone the next; the consistency never develops and that hinders athletic performance,” said Athletic Director Carl Charles, who presented his budget proposal to the Board of Education Monday night. “The more volunteers we have, the less educational coaching we have on the field and we begin to fail to meet the standards of Ridgefield Public Schools — it’s a slippery slope.”
The board would contribute a record-high $896,854 to the athletic budget based on the proposal — an $86,588 increase from what they’re spending in 2013-14, leaving RHS to recoup the remaining $409,040 from participation fees, gate receipts and field rentals.
Over half of the RHS student body — approximately 925 of its 1,450 students — participate in one of the 59 athletic programs offered, with almost 500 students participating in each of the three athletic seasons.
“Not many high schools can say that,” said Charles.
Besides coaches’ salaries, which make up $707,185 of the proposed budget, the next largest expense item is purchased services — ice, pool and mountain rentals, police security at all home events, and athletic trainers.
With a proposed $22,046 increase, purchased services will account for $217,017 of the budget.
“We need to be able to provide adequate athletic training service for multi-event days — this is a real need for our program,” Charles said.
Currently, the athletic department has only one full-time trainer and freelances the rest of the work to certified personal trainers on a per-diem basis when needed.
“The problem with that approach is that the trainer coming in doesn’t know me, doesn’t know the students, and doesn’t know anything about Ridgefield High School’s standards and protocol,” said Charles. “This person would be under my supervision and would help assist the trainer we have on our staff on days where we have multiple athletic events going on — it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Charles said participation fees have been consistent at $323,040 over the last three years and will stay flat next school year.
He acknowledged that the gate receipts this fall weren’t as good as they were in recent years with the varsity football team playing three of its five home games in November.
“I’m reliant on home football, and the bad weather late this year kept people out of the stands,” said Charles. “Looking ahead to this fall, we have six home football games and three are in October, so I expect that we will exceed what we’ve collected at the gate this year.”
As part of the athletic budget — the part the Board of Education does not cover — Charles requires the department to collect a minimum of $46,000 in gate receipts, with any surplus going into the department’s fund balance. He said the gate receipts this year have totaled a little less than $43,400, which is close to the minimum with five months still left on the athletic schedule.
Whatever the total is from the gates it will go directly towards covering the other significant cost — a $25,000 balance transfer that will be put into a 10-year sinking fund for the new Tiger Hollow practice field.
“There’s $31,000 in there now and we’re taking out $25,000 to put toward the sinking fund,” said Charles. “We’re running pretty low, but it’s subject to change at the end of the year.”
Charles said he budgets $15,000 annually for field rentals, which figures into the portion of the budget not covered by the board.
Superintendent Deborah Low, who will retire at the end of the school year, made it a priority to thank Charles for helping elevate Ridgefield athletics.
“We have one of the best athletic directors in the state,” she said. “I’m proud of our athletic department and all of our student athletes — everyone should be proud.”