Athletic department suffers budget woes after season of lackluster ticket sales
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A reported $60,000 loss in revenue from ticket sales during the 2019 Cairo High School Syrupmaker football season has put the C.H.S. athletic department in a budget crunch and the Grady County Board of Education has been asked to provide financial aid.
On Tuesday night at the January meeting of the Grady County Board of Education, School Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard presented the board with an invoice from Riddell/All American Sports Corp. of Chicago totaling $18,026.55.
The invoice is for equipment ordered for the football program at the high school including new shoulder pads as well as reconditioned helmets.
According to Dr. Gilliard, the athletic department is required to routinely have helmets reconditioned in accordance with state law.
“These are expenses we have not covered in the past and have been covered with ticket sales revenue,” Dr. Gilliard said. The superintendent said after consulting with board attorney Thomas L. Lehman, who researched the ballot language for the most recent Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum, it has been determined that this expense could be paid for with sales tax proceeds earmarked for athletics.
“We cannot use general fund monies to pay for this, but we can use ESPLOST,” Dr. Gilliard said. C.H.S. Athletic Director Tom Fallaw had said that if ticket sales rebounded in 2020, the athletic department could reimburse the ESPLOST funds, if necessary, according to Dr. Gilliard.
Newly elected board chairwoman Teresa Gee Hardy said she did not have an issue with using sales tax to pay the invoices provided it did not “jeopardize projects we have planned to pay for with the ESPLOST.” She indicated if paying the bill out of sales tax did not hamper planned projects she would not require the money be reimbursed. Out-going 2019 board chairman Jeff Worsham concurred.
However, board member John White alerted the board and superintendent that paying these expenses of the football program could potentially have Title 9 impacts in the future. White said that the system is required to support men’s sports and women’s sports equally.
Dr. Gilliard said that was an issue he would address with Lehman. The superintendent also noted that the loss in revenue does not only hurt the football program but also the entire athletic program at Cairo High School. “All of the other sports depend on the financial success of the football program each year,” Dr. Gilliard said.
Newly appointed District 3 board member Gerald Goosby asked if this was expected to be a recurring issue. Dr. Gilliard explained that the athletic director sets the budget each year based on the previous year’s revenues. “So, they are making adjustments and all of the sports programs will be impacted, but no, they should not have to come back to the board again next year,” Dr. Gilliard said.
White urged caution in the future regarding the potential Title 9 issues and said that some school systems had been sued for such violations. Board chairwoman Hardy said the cases she was aware of were the result of systems not doing what they had been asked to do with regards to equally funding men’s and women’s sports programs. “If it needs to be addressed, we will have the opportunity to address it in the future,” board member Worsham added.
Dr. Gilliard insisted the system has been and will continue to be fair to all of its sports programs.
The board voted unanimously to pay the Riddell bill.
In other business Tuesday night, the board:
Approved the hiring of the following personnel: Alan Joiner – service mechanic; Darrie Stephens – special ed. teacher at Washington Middle School; Destiny Broome – teacher at Southside Elementary School; Lynlee Poppell – science teacher at Shiver Elementary School; and Justin Hudson – bus driver.
Accepted the resignations of the following: Amber Jones – teacher at Whigham Elementary School; Tanner Jones – coach/teacher at Alternative School; Nikki Johnson – science teacher at Washington Middle School; Linda Johnson – nurse at Washington Middle School; Lynetra Griffin – teacher at Southside Elementary School; and Derek McCoy – director of learning and innovation.
Approved the retirement of Jeanette Thomas – teacher at Northside Elementary School; Gracie Barlow – school food service assistant at Southside Elementary School; and Lynne Peart – parapro at Southside.
Heard an update from finance officer Dan Broome, who reported that sufficient ad valorem tax collections had been received in December to meet the system’s cash flow requirements without the need to borrow money. He also requested and received authorization to pay the accounts payable for the month totaling $971,768.90.
Heard from Superintendent Gilliard who had received a complaint from a local resident concerning school resource officers driving school system vehicles out of the county. Dr. Gilliard advised the board that he had been contacted by a local resident who had seen a school system vehicle at a retail establishment in Decatur County. The superintendent reminded the board that the school system’s policy allows officers to drive vehicles to and from work within 25-miles of the county. The concerned citizen had requested the superintendent share his concerns with the board and, according to Dr. Gilliard the citizen is planning to address the board in person at the Feb. 11 board meeting.