Niagara Gazette

Columns

October 9, 2012

CONFER: Cut school sports -- for financial reasons

Niagara Gazette — The past few years have been almost as difficult for local governments as it has for the private sector.

Unlike state and federal governments — which still seem addicted to their spend-heavy ways despite the short-term and long-term financial implications – municipalities and school districts have had a dose of fiscal reality that once was found only in the business world and in peoples’ homes. They have had to make some very difficult and unpopular cuts and their residents find themselves doing without in order to balance budgets or keep spending increases at a minimum.

Things really aren’t getting any better; their sources of revenue remain stressed. Most businesses are still depressed and definitely hesitant about future growth (the unemployment rate is 8.8 percent in NY). State and local sales tax revenues are a combined $300 million below projections across the state. New federal standards have changed the way educational funding is acquired (“Race to the Top”). The state’s population continues to both decrease and age (upstate’s median age rose by nearly seven years in the period of 1990 to 2010). Foreclosures are still at epidemic levels across the Empire State (140,000 homes are currently seriously delinquent).

Because of those factors, and no real relief in sight, local governments will have to get even more creative in the coming months and years. What was thought to be hard decisions in recent years will look almost pedestrian to what will have to happen in 2013, 2014, and beyond.

Nothing is out of question and everything is fair game. Even the most sacrosanct of all publically-funded programs should be considered for the chopping block. First and foremost should be high school athletics.

When it comes to budgeting at your workplace and with your household finances, every dollar — no, every cent — matters. That same belief should hold true with school budgets. Just because something seems like such a small piece of the puzzle doesn’t necessarily make it so. It’s an accumulation of those small pieces that contribute to the overall organization. When you expand on the statistics, the reality of that is evident.

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