District 205 Picks Apart Spending for Extracurriculars Line by Line

First up is the athletics department at York High.

Elmhurst Unit District 205 spends about $1.2 million of its $100 million budget on the athletics program at York High School, and it takes in about $250,000 in athletics fees paid by families.

The cost figure, presented to the School Board Tuesday by Finance Committee Chairman Chris Blum, includes staff and equipment only. Facility costs, including gym time, pool time and stadium time, are not included.

While Blum stopped short of saying these numbers are exact—the committee is just beginning to look at them—they are "directionally correct," he said.

"Ultimately, the district funds over $900,000 out of the general fund toward the athletics program at York," he told the School Board.

Blum said the reason for the study is that in order to properly allocate the district's limited funds and set spending goals and priorities, they first need to break down expenditures "into buckets." The committee is working with Assistant Superintendent for Finance Chris Whelton to do just that.

"Tying spending to our priorities is the ultimate goal," Blum said.

But it's not the only goal. Transparency and holding staff in the athletics department accountable for running a tight ship also are desired outcomes.

"An underlying goal is that we need to ask those responsible for running those activities to know and manage their costs," board Vice President Maria Hirsch said. "It's an attempt to encourage all of the staff to tightly watch and reduce their costs if at all possible to do so. Having daylight on it is a good step in the right direction."

Zeroing in on costs has been discussed by the board for several years. There had been "some confusion" over the cost of these programs when budget cuts were made and fees increased, she said.

Board President Jim Collins said he had heard comments from some parents who believe the district is making money off the fees.

Blum said by looking at revenues versus expenses, it's clear that's not the case. Fees only cover 20 percent to 25 percent of the athletics program costs at York, he said.

"If you look at the costs, it's $1.2 million. Fees offset only a small portion of that," he said. "The cost side is significantly larger than the revenue line."

York athletics is just the first phase of this deep dive into spending. The committee will be looking at all extracurricular activity budgets "to add more clarity to what we're doing," Blum said.

Glenda Worrell October 10, 2012 at 12:30 PM
I'm glad to see this. "Having daylight" on costs should be a required baseline, not something that makes headlines.
DStallmann October 13, 2012 at 04:07 PM
I hope people don't overreact. $1.2M out of $100M budget is only 1.2%. A myriad of studies have found highly significant benefits to participating in athletics and other extracurriculars during the high school years, including improved classroom performance. Strong financial controls are necessary across the board, including the other $98.8M not mentioned in this particular story.


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