Oak Harbor sports teams spared from paring, for now
By JIM WALLER
Whidbey News Times Sports editor
March 22, 2011 · Updated 1:34 PM
The Oak Harbor High School golf, swimming and debate programs appear, for now, to have escaped the school district budget committee’s whittling knife.
In the final formal meeting of the budget committee Monday, the group listened to 25 of some 200 members of a civil standing-room-only crowd speak about the merits of the programs on the chopping block.
The speakers offered alternative ways of trimming the activities budget, praised the value of extra-curricular activities and asked that the district not make further cuts in the middle school and high school non-varsity athletic programs.
At the conclusion of the public comments, school board member Peter Hunt said that the committee would look at other ways to meet the budget without sacrificing entire programs.
Board member Gary Wallin said, “You came up with ideas and not just criticisms, and we appreciate that.”
The proposal to eliminate the golf and swimming programs came from Oak Harbor High School athletic director Nicki Luper who was asked by the district to cut $25,000 from the athletic budget. She proposed the elimination of golf and swimming because those two sports are not “housed” at the high school and because of the “cost-value” per athlete of those sports.
The most common comment by the public speakers was to spread the cuts among all activities and not eliminate any.
Other repeated solutions were to raise the participation fees and to eliminate some trips.
Parent Juli Leete said she contacted the athletic directors of the other Wesco 3A schools and the average participation fee was $125 per sport. Oak Harbor charges $100 for the first sport in a school year per athlete, $50 for the second and zero for the third.
Dr. Benjamin Hu said, “If I need to lose 15 pounds, I can cut off my left arm; but there are more effective ways of dieting.” He added that the district could save $18,000 by eliminating one trip for each sport.
Parent Bart Tillotson said the district has a “moral obligation” to keep kids “on the playing field and out of the police station.”
District Superintendent Rick Schulte said it could be as late as August before the final budget decisions were made as the district awaits word on state and federal funding. He added that Monday’s meeting was the final formal budget committee meeting but that the group would welcome continued comments and suggestions.
Contact Whidbey News Times Sports editor Jim Waller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5060.