Sports stay in schools, for now

Local school sports programs are safe from budget cuts, at least for now.

New Haven Public Schools have not yet made budget cuts to their athletics programs, but given stricter state and city funding, some cutbacks in the near future are inevitable, officials said. Given that Superintendent Reginald Mayo has requested that the athletics programs consider reductions in spending, New Haven Public Schools Athletics Supervisor Joseph Canzanella said he will be the one to say what stays and what goes.

Canzanella, who has been active in New Haven athletics since he was a high school student here, said he is preparing a proposal to submit to Mayo suggesting various cuts of up to 15 percent across the program’s total budget. There is no specific timeline mandating when any proposed cuts would take effect, so fall sports, including football, soccer and volleyball, may not even be affected, he said.

“As of right now, we’re holding our own,” Canzanella said. “Other districts have had bigger problems.”

He explained that any reductions would vary depending on season and sport, but the total dollar amount would range between $10,000 and $50,000. Canzanella affirmed that some things would not be touched: the range of sports offered, the number of students allowed to play on each team and the amount of available equipment. Rather, the program might scrimp on discretionary expenses; for example, the football team might play only two scrimmages as opposed to four.

Jonathan Capone, the coordinator for athletics in Orange, said the city, whose schools play in the same conference as New Haven’s, is also “hanging in there.”

“They didn’t tell me to cut freshman teams to save money,” he said, citing a worst-case scenario.

Capone said 80 percent of his $400,000 budget goes to coaches’ salaries; the rest is allocated between transportation, equipment and game personnel, like ticket-takers and referees. He added that a strict budget kept him from adding programs, such as a golf team, but he said he has not lost any elements from athletics in general.

Hillhouse High School football coach Tom Dyer agreed that, while a tight budget has kept his players in old — though well-cared for, he emphasized — equipment, the economy has not significantly affected his team.

“It’s not a worry to the kids,” Dyer said. “We don’t make it an issue.”

And while the New Haven athletics budget has not dwindled, neither has participation. Canzanella said that while there are always some grades that don’t take a strong interest in sports, over a five-year time frame, the numbers average out. And while some athletes do quit sports in order to work, he added that coaches will often compromise with those students to keep them on the team.

“Be it family pressure or their own interests, they do leave athletics and go to work,” Canzanella said. “But that happens all the time. There are not any more than usual.”

The Southern Connecticut Conference has 22 member schools and includes 23,000 student athletes.

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