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The Saratoga Falcon

Sports contributions: Where that $275 goes

When athletes mindlessly fill out the mundane, nine-page packet of forms required for participation in sports, they often blindly write a check for $275 without giving much thought to where that money actually goes.

According to athletic director Tim Lugo, sports receive no direct financial support from the district. Rather, the sports budget, which is about $275,000 a year, is based solely on the $275 or more contribution from the parents.
Principal Paul Robinson said that while students are not required to pay a fee in order to play a sport, this donation is essential to maintain all of the school’s current sports programs.

“Instead of saying that it is an athletic fee, we say that it is a contribution to this goal of having everything that we want in our athletic program,” Robinson said. “Many times, some people contribute more, because they know people are unable or even unwilling to.”

Lugo said these contributions help diversify Saratoga’s athletic program.

“Unlike most schools, we fund all the sports. [Students who] go to Monta Vista or Lynbrook can’t play lacrosse,” Lugo said. “We offer everything that the CCS allows us to offer, so we give kids a lot of avenues to be a part of athletics.”

However, not all sports are funded equally by the sports budget. Lugo said that football is the most expensive sport, with a budget of $7,700, excluding coaching salaries, covering the high costs of equipment that needs to be replaced every few years and transportation. Most other sports cost only between $1,500 and $2,000.

Additionally, some sports, such as cross country, require little to no funding for equipment, yet all athletes have to pay the same fee regardless of what sport they play. Despite these disparities, Robinson stressed that the fees all even out.

“Cross country uniforms aren’t very much, but when you have 60 people on a cross country team, buses are very expensive,” Robinson said. “Maybe the uniforms of softball players are more, but transportation is less expensive, and it all balances out.”

Lugo said money for sports has to be pooled together because of the shared costs that all athletes pay and benefit from, including that of the athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach, officials and medical insurance for those who can’t afford it.

“We can't really charge [a specific fee] per sport because everyone is getting back something different,” Lugo said. “If you ever walk by [athletic trainer Liz Gilmore Alve’s] office, you know she’s worth every penny we pay her, because her room is always full. So it all plays out in the long run.”

In addition to sports budgets, the Saratoga Sports Boosters, a separate nonprofit organization, also plays an important role. Lugo said the boosters are trying to supplement bigger projects like the Sports Plaza, a new entrance to the football field that includes a ticket counter, a snack bar, and bathrooms, as well as increase school spirit.

Coaches from individual sports can request monetary help from the Boosters for equipment or projects outside the school budget, if necessary. They bought team uniforms in the past years as well, but the school picked up these costs because the Boosters are low on money, Lugo said. Now that the turf is done, the school has more money to help the Boosters out.

Because the money that had been set aside for the larger projects is no longer necessary, Lugo said the school has seen a rollover of over $45,000 a year, part of which will now be used for new uniforms.

“If we continue to roll over large amounts of money, we’ll reduce the participation fee,” Lugo said.

Aside from the Boosters, the Saratoga High School Foundation, also a private organization, funds most of sports facilities. The Foundation’s current project is split into two phases and costs an approximate $5 million. Phase one, which includes replacing the turf and starting construction of the sports plaza, is already in process and partially complete. Phase two includes leveling the upper field and turning it into a stadium wired with lights.

Phase two is completely funded by the Foundation, Lugo said. Money goes through the Red Pride capital campaign, a part of the SHS Foundation, and a private fundraising group that was contracted to help.

Money for the plaza, an entrance to the football field that includes a ticket counter, snack bar and bathrooms, has been collected in the form of donations from more than 100 families. Additionally, some companies have matched the bigger donations, and more than $2 million has been raised. Construction for the plaza is expected to start by Dec. 1 and be finish in time for graduation.

“If you look at our campus, it will be a great balance between what you have up front with the McAfee Center and that beautiful sports plaza,” Robinson said. “All that money is private money, and that’s one of the really cool things is to see our community step up.”

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