Fall and spring teams will receive no funds from the school for supplies

In the face of constantly rising costs, the Newberg High School athletic department has managed to cover its operating expenses despite receiving the same amount of funding from the school district for the past 20 years.

Unfortunately, the growing divergence between those two trends finally hit the department hard this fall, effectively dealing a death knell to the athletic supply budget for the remainder of the school year.

NHS athletic director Tim Burke said he was informed that the department still owed $12,000 for transportation and approximately $10,000 for officials, forcing Burke to use funds previously allocated to winter and spring sports to cover those costs.

“We have to pay the officials bills and we have to provide transportation,” Burke said. “What gets left out are supply needs.”

By no means was last year the first time that school’s budget was insufficient to cover all of its expenses, Burke said. In fact, he says it is the exact opposite, that there have always been shortfalls.

Burke has tapped two resources in the past to cover them, the booster club and gate receipts from home athletic contests, but that wasn’t enough to cover the gap this time.

“Depending on the year, the booster club puts in about $15,000 to $20,000 a year for operating expenses,” Burke said. “It used to be that the booster club funded bigger ticket items, buying Gators for the field, covers for the long jump pit, and on a grand scale, the fundraising for the turf field. The booster club was founded to supplement athletics, not fund it. Right now, they’re putting a chunk in just for operating expenses.”

In addition to the ever-rising costs for transportation and officials, the school’s use of those services increased last year with the addition of boys and girls lacrosse as varsity sports. Combining those factors with the stagnant budgeting from the district and covering the shortfall without reallocating the supply budget was a bridge too far this time around.

“What we used to rely on, the generosity of our community, people are not able to do that as much,” Burke said. “So that just compounds the problem. It still amazes me, given all of those factors, we were able to raise $500,000 for a turf field in less than a year. I’m still just absolutely blown away by that.”

The only influx of revenue during Burke’s tenure came when former Superintendent Paula Radich changed district procedure in order to allow Burke to keep gate revenue as opposed to it going directly to the district and deposited in the general fund. He also noted that the biggest factor in how gate revenue fluctuates from year to year is whether the football team has four or five home games on its schedule.

At the same time, Burke realizes that in the grand scheme of funding in the district, having the same exact budget over such a long period could be considered as a positive.

“I’m not complaining about our athletics budget,” he said. “It’s not adequate, that’s for sure, but every department in this entire district, every area of our educational system has been receiving cuts over the years, so this is just how we operate. Fortunately I work in a community that has been extremely generous over the years and has made it work.

Burke said he is proud at how well the department has operated despite the fiscal challenges, especially some of the coaches, who have continued to deliver positive athletic experiences for Newberg students, noting they often make significant personal and financial sacrifices along the way.

“We don’t ever eliminate a kid who can’t afford a sports fee,” Burke said. “We have people in this community who will step up and help fund equipment, insurance, getting a physical. That’s how we survive; we’re in a community that takes care of those kids. I think in other areas it’s maybe more of an elitist mentality and that the only kids who can participate in athletic programs are the ones who can afford it. We — me, the coaches and the community — work incredibly hard to make sure that’s never the case here. That should be the norm, but anymore it’s becoming abnormal.”

Confusion about the situation spread, with some parents believing that the district had cut the athletic budget and inquiring with district officials as to why.

The district released a statement stating there were no cuts, but at a practical level for winter and spring sports teams, the result is the same. Fall sports had already placed their orders before the shortfall came to light.

One of the positives of the situation, according to Burke, is that district administrators are now more aware of the situation and will be involved in the discussions on how to move forward.

Part of the conversation so far centered on individual fundraising by teams and how efforts may be better coordinated so that regular donors aren’t burdened with multiple requests for assistance throughout the school year.

“If I go ask somebody for money, they have no problem telling Tim Burke ‘no,’” Burke said. “But when we send a young high school teenager, they have a hard time. I feel for our businesses because the ones who do give, word gets out pretty quickly, so the next group will go back and hit them up. And it’s not just athletics, it’s our activity clubs and our elementary school, Boy Scouts and church groups. It’s constant on our businesses.”

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