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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call Sue McDonald in the central office at (860) 693-7704.