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Wait ’Til Next Year Saugerties faces tough decisions on sports funding, athletic director Lee Molyneaux recognizes

by Crispin Kott
December 30, 2010 02:41 PM | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Saugerties school district went into the winter break with visions of the 2011-12 operating budget dancing in their heads. Reinstatement of a district-funded sports program to the estimated tune of $430,000 was among the preliminary additions of roughly $2.4 million to the current austerity-level spending plan.

The Sawyers are in the middle of their winter season from the modified level on up to varsity. It’s a season that very nearly didn’t happen. If not for the largesse of a local donor, who offered $150,000 if community fundraising could match it, there would have been no sports at all. But while the booster and private efforts paid off this school year, many of those involved in organizing the fund drives have said they won’t be able to do the same next season.

What might this mean? School officials will return from their break next week. In the meantime, Saugerties athletic director Lee Molyneaux helped put things in perspective.

According to Molyneaux, school officials are working with a rollover budget, making no specific increases beyond those discussed by district business manager Allen Olsen at a mid-December meeting of the school board. The figure suggested for restoring district funding of sports, Molyneaux said, were taken from the 2009-10 budget.

“Those numbers are all with full schedules including going to invitationals,” he said. “It’s everything. We can replace equipment, buy new uniforms, that sort of thing.”

The current sports year is up and running at a somewhat reduced level, with fewer games, fewer road trips and almost no scrimmages. But everyone’s been pitching in.

“The nice thing is that a lot of the other districts have helped out,” said Molyneaux. “They’ve been offering to travel here and pay for the officials, so that extra game is at no cost to us. I’ve seen that happen now once or twice in every sports season with five different school districts. We’re good competition, and Saugerties is a nice place to play. When they call, oftentimes they say, What can we do to help make this happen?”

Molyneaux credited the Saugerties community for helping make what could have been a disastrous season for student-athletes something special instead. “The kids and the coaches and parents have all been great,” he said. “We’ve had to do things a bit differently. We’re having to think out of the box, and people have come to me with great ideas. Everybody understands what we’re going through, and we’re working together.”

Members of the Saugerties Booster Club have gone on record as saying they don’t believe fundraising and direct donations are a sustainable model for keeping sports in Saugerties. Molyneaux has been hearing similar sentiments in the community.

“When we meet as a Booster Club, that is the feeling,” he said. “It was just such a huge stressful undertaking, but very rewarding at the same time. When I spoke at the board meeting with the check from the Booster Club, that was a wonderful moment. But the stress of that [fundraising effort] is hard.”

Ultimately, Molyneaux hopes that sports will still be around for the students of Saugerties in years to come.

“It would be great,” he said. “I understand the way things are, but it would be great for the students themselves. I was talking to another athletic director the other day and saying, I can’t imagine going into your junior or senior year and someone saying, you might not have sports to play. It’s the culmination for these kids from when they were five or six at Cantine Field on a Pee-Wee team. It’s a tough thing to maybe have to lose out on.”

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