BETHLEHEM There could be fewer athletic opportunities for Bethlehem Central students next school year if proposed reductions are made to contend with dwindling state aid and increasing costs.
The Bethlehem Board of Education continued 2013-14 budget development on Wednesday, Feb. 27, and discussed the athletics and operations and maintenance budgets. Athletics spending is proposed to increase by almost $26,000 to a total of $660,000, and the operations and maintenance budget would increase $47,000 to total $5.2 million.
The district’s proposed $90.6 million budget requires more than $1 million in reductions after tapping reserves for $1.75 million and hiking taxes by 3.64 percent, the maximum allowed under the state tax cap law.
Athletic Director John DeMeo proposed reducing all sports with four levels (varsity, junior varsity, freshman and modified) to only three levels. That reduction could save between $49,000 to $89,000.
“Obviously, reductions are in the future and some of the suburban schools have gone, based on either interest in the sport or budget issues, to three levels of sports,” DeMeo said. “Most schools have been dropping the freshman level the last couple of years.”
DeMeo said suburban council schools have discussed eliminating freshman sports and making modified include ninth-grade along with seventh- and eighth-grade students. Some more talented freshman could possibly play at the junior varsity level.
Athletics this year includes 13 girls programs, 14 boys programs and one co-ed program, with 85 paid coaches and 65 teams. There are more than 1,700 student-participants from seventh to twelfth grade, with some students playing more than one sport.
Ninth grade has the most students playing two sports, at 85 students, and there are even 40 students in tenth grade playing three sports. Around 38 percent of high school students are on a sports team.
Coach salaries and benefits are the largest portion of athletic-related costs at 34 percent of the program’s budget, and the salaries line is expected to increase by around $11,500 to $365,00.