Budget cuts take a toll on Fonda-Fultonville program

By MICHAEL KELLY

Recorder Sports Staff

FONDA -- At Monday's Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education meeting, athletic director Eric Wilson put forward his vision for how his department could weather a once-again reduced budget.

The cuts: Modified sports teams -- except for boys and girls soccer -- boys and girls swimming, golf, bowling and the coach for junior varsity cheerleading.

"These are only recommendations," said interim superintendent Ray Colucciello, Friday. "These are not set in stone."

In all, those moves -- if acted upon -- would save the district more than $62,000 for the 2013-14 academic year, bringing the athletics budget to slightly more than $234,000. Such a final figured was in the ballpark of where Colucciello said it likely needed to be for next year, Wilson said Thursday.

"My goal in doing this was two things," said Wilson. "To save as many -- or maintain as many -- high school sports as we can, while affecting the least number of kids."

While modified sports served 148 students during this current academic year -- for this year, the program was funded by the school's booster club -- the newly cut sports served a combined 28 students. Wilson said that the cuts he offered were the most cost-efficient ones for the department, decided after analyzing the cost-per-athlete associated with different sports, among other factors.

"Everyone is going to have their own opinions about how to save the $62,000," said WIlson. "But at least they saw [my] rationale for it."

The logic Wilson said he used in making his proposal is likely best seen in Wilson's plan in keeping funding for the modified soccer programs despite the level being cut on an overall basis.

The stated reason for not funding the bulk of modified programs is because one level of athletics had to go -- modified or junior varsity -- and if the junior varsity level was eliminated, it would put high school athletes -- especially ninth- and 10th-grader -- in an awkward spot, as they would be too old to play modified and potentially not skilled enough to play varsity.

But, Wilson said, F-F does not necessarily have enough interest in a given year to field junior varsity soccer teams -- but it does have the requisite numbers in the seventh and eighth grades to field a club.

That doesn't make the cuts easy, though. One of the sports on the chopping block -- golf -- is a program for which Wilson is the varsity head coach. He said Thursday that he had not yet heard from any of his underclassmen golfers since his presentations.

"Not yet, but they know about it and I think they get it," he said. "We talked about it this past year during golf season because some of them asked if we were going to have a team next year. You can't really answer those questions, but you talk about looking at the big picture and they're smart kids. They get it."

Wilson said fundraising for the programs was an option going forward, as was the community offering more intramural or recreational athletic opportunities.

More hopeful news came a few days ago, though, when F-F found out its state aid was potentially going to see a bump of roughly $350,000 from what the district had expected. Wilson said his "fingers are crossed" that some of that money might make its way to athletics.

"But it's too early to tell," said Colucciello, adding that he thought any additional athletics funds might go to modified sports because of the large numbers of students that cut affects.