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Schools of Thought: Skiing cut regrettable, necessary

April 27, 2009
By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald

It always stinks when a school has to get rid of any opportunity it had been providing its students, but when money is tight, there is sometimes little else to do.

Among the cuts made by the Gloversville Enlarged School District in its proposed budget for next school year was one entire sports program - Alpine, or downhill, skiing.

This isn't a large program and I can't imagine it will save a great chunk of money for the district, but with the low number of skiers actually taking advantage of the opportunity, it makes sense.

The team had six skiers on the roster at the start of the 2008-09 winter season and, in a report provided to The Leader-Herald for Thursday's edition, that number dwindled to four before season's end.

Per athlete, that small chunk of money suddenly looks a little different.

As sorry as I am to see this for the athletes who were looking forward to skiing for the school in the 2009-10 season, I'd have to say it was a responsible move by the district's Board of Education, which is not made up solely of disinterested parties, either. Matt Semione, a junior at Gloversville High School, would have been skiing his final season for GHS next winter. His father, Pete, is the BOE Vice President and helped the board unanimously approve the proposed budget.

The money saved is less important than the precedent this sets, locally.

It's been a while since schools were forced to make decisions like this because of finances. This may not be the last local program to be dropped, but I am sure the school boards will each consider carefully any cuts they make, and cuts in the athletic department are not, I am sure, a priority for any board.

Not only are there far larger issues for each board to address, but the athletic budget is such a small portion of the whole budget.

Gloversville, for instance, spent just 0.7 percent of its 2008-09 budget on sports, well below the average of 1.12 percent among local schools.

That athletic budget was the largest among area schools, totalling $363K, but was part of one of the highest total budgets in the area ($50.6 million).

That money was used to serve one of the largest schools in the area, so the percentage of money spent on athletics is more telling than the dollar amount. Athletic budgets are the small fish.

In Mayfield, this year's budget for athletics was 1.1 percent of the whole and Mayfield Central School District stretched $185,500 to cover 21 varsity teams.

One of them was Alpine skiing, which had seven skiers on the roster at the start of the 2008-09 winter season. Like Gloversville, the district realized this was a low number for a varsity program, so they combined with Gloversville. The two shared the cost of running the program and the busing.

Now Mayfield is faced with a decision about its downhill program. It costs money to run the bus out to Caroga Lake, money to use Royal Mountain Ski Area, money (per skier) to race anywhere.

"Those fees add up," Mayfield athletic director Eileen Rovito said. "If you have a lot of kids, you work it out [the cost] per kid and it's not so bad. If you just have a handful of kids, then per kid, it's a lot of money for a sport."

She said there has not yet been a chance to address the issue of Alpine skiing in Mayfield yet, as it was just last week she found out about Gloversville's decision to eliminate the program.

Rovito said it was disappointing because the skiers from both school enjoyed the program and seemed to get a lot out of it.

However, if the money isn't there and the interest isn't there, soon, the program can't be there. It's a disappointing result, but a necessary one we will probably see more of as our schools cannot go untouched by this recession.

"It's just not cost-effective," Rovito said. "I think we were hoping, when we combined, there would be more interest. Neither school really had enough kids [interested] in it to make it fly."



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