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Residents Ask Board of Education to Increase its Commitment to Canton High Sports Programs

Speakers participate in budget forum Tuesday.

During a budget forum Tuesday night, numerous speakers asked the Board of Education to consider additional support for high school sports, including a greater commitment toward eliminating the private funding of sports teams, additional revenue possibilities and some cuts in other areas. 

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Case has proposed a budget of $24,571,072, a $1,130,670 or 4.82 percent increase over the approved 2012-2013 schools spending plan of $23,440,402.

The budget includes some sports initiatives, including $8,000 toward girls lacrosse and girls volleyball.

Case said it is part of a three-year proposal to bring those programs, which are currently privately funded, under the Board of Education’s budget.

A recent study from the Connecticut Interscholastic Interscholastic Athletic Conference recommended the board take over all privately funded sports programs.

A.J. Zukowski, president of the Friends of Canton football, said the $8,000 represented about 10 percent of the cost for privately funded programs.

While he didn’t recommend a specific amount, Zukowski and several other speakers asked for more support.

He said the school could do more in terms of funding, combining sports efforts with music, academic and other programs and consider tapping into regional resources like ESPN.

“We’re missing so many great opportunities in town,” he said.

Canton High School junior and football player Eric Scott also asked for greater support. He said students had talked about one area of potential savings — eliminating a $20,000 proposal to improve the cafeteria line infrastructure at Canton High School.

“It doesn’t seem necessary,” he said.

Other speakers suggested the board could consider cutting some of the funding for the Canton Parents as Teachers program.

While expressing support and use of other programs, such as music, several parents questioned why athletics included fees while many other programs did not.

“I am not asking for money,” said parent and Canton Athletic Booster Club vice president Debbie Sugar. “I am asking board to start supporting the athletes.”

A fee structure for other activities may help the school district raise revenue, speakers said.

Jen Charron said she felt private funding of sports programs, along with fundraisers, was creating another problem in town.

“Businesses are starting to get a little frustrated that we go back to them over and over again,” she said.

The board had little discussion of the budget Tuesday night but member Carlene Rhea said the finance subcommittee will meet again Friday morning and is already struggling with the numbers. She said most members feel a nearly 5 percent increase is more than the town can support.

“We found that number to be high,” she said.

The committee is looking at items such as the Capital Improvement Fund, the number of full-time equivalents at Canton High School, potential savings from retirements and requiring Canton Parents as Teachers to be more self sufficient. She said the committee and entire board would take the Tuesday's comments into consideration as it goes forward. 

Board chair Leslee Hill said input is very valuable. 

"It’s very helpful for the board to get this kind of feedback," she said. 

Case said residents also have more opportunities this week to comment and learn more about his proposed budget.

On Thursday, Feb. 28, the following budget forums have been scheduled: 

  • Canton Intermediate School - 7:30 a.m.
  • Canton Community Center - 10 a.m.
  • Cherry Brook Primary School - 2 p.m.

The board is also interested in hearing from anyone who wants to host a home-based budget information session. Those interested can e-mail lmckenna@cantonschools.org or call Sue McDonald in the central office at (860) 693-7704. 

See the budget documents and a timeline at http://www.cantonschools.org/budget.shtml

Randy Carrin February 27, 2013 at 08:21 PM
Every year the sports craze in our town as in other towns grows and grows. Our kids no longer get to be kids and play on their own...pick up sides and create their own games after school. We the parents need to structure their play into leagues that last all year long, practices and games each week that parents run. And now the Board of Ed is being asked to provide further support for high school sports? Why? I'm willing to be that most of those asking the Board to do this have kids playing not only on a high school team but three "travel" teams as well. What about asking for more support for art or even more importantly, for special education services. When was the last time a private company in town contributed to improved special ed services in Canton that is greatly needed?
Betty February 27, 2013 at 08:39 PM
John, Be nice to see an article about the BOE proposed a budget broken down by discipline. What piece of the pie is art, music, foreign language, special ed, technology getting, not to mention the basics: reading, writing and 'rithmetic?
Andrew Ziemba February 27, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Forget all those elderly or people in their 50s and 60s who are unemployed or will soon be. Obsolete in the 21st century as the younger generation push them into unemployment because they will work harder for less and they are much more tech savvy. Oh yes, and this is all while the employers they work for are quickly going bankrupt. They are going to lose their home, and can only dream of retirement. Raise the taxes anyway! Force them to work at a grocery store stocking shelves until the day they die, or else leave the house they raised their family in and go rent in Winsted/Torrington. Imagine the real world for all those who are not working for the state of Connecticut. Just raise the taxes a little bit. Do it for the kids.
Ken Bangs February 28, 2013 at 02:57 AM
Ken Bangs I am in favor of the BoE funding HS football and girls' LAX just as it funds other HS sports. It does not seem fair that these teams should have to do their own fundraising when other teams do not. However, it is not right to single out other programs, such as Canton Parents as Teachers (CPAT), to be cut in order to provide the funding for athletics, implying that such a program is not as important as an athletic program. The CPAT program has been around for 25 years because it is an active, vibrant program that provides very valuable services for many families, for the school system and for the town. The CPAT program also provides services to tax-paying families whose children are not yet even in the school system. To single out this program is to ignore its value and do it a great injustice. Leave such valuable programs alone and figure out an equitable way for all of the HS athletic teams to be funded by the BoE and/or to share mutually in a broader fundraising effort so that taxes will not have to be raised.
John Fitts (Editor) February 28, 2013 at 03:05 AM
Hi Ken, I should have said that some speakers suggested cutting some funding for CPAT - not the whole program. I apologize if that was not clear.
Ken Bangs March 01, 2013 at 03:32 PM
Thanks for the clarification. I stiil maintain that it is not right to single out a program like CPAT even fir partial cuts to support athletics. It still implies that CPAT is less important or less deserving of funding. If HS athletics needs more money, then fundraising should be shouldered by all of the athletic programs. Or, perhaps a special tax for people with children in the school system that would exempt the elderly and those without children in the schools. Or, perhaps a separate athletic participation fee. There must be ways to do this fairly without attacking other valuable programs.

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