Shows must go on

June 02, 2002|by MARK KELLER

Congratulations to the Smithsburg girls track and field team and the Boonsboro baseball team on their state titles last weekend.

One of the great things about winning a league title or a state championship is having the opportunity to defend the crown the next season.

The problem is this: Those teams may not get the chance to defend their titles unless the Washington County Board of Education allows them to do so.

The school board is looking for ways to make up for a $1.3 million shortfall for fiscal year 2003 and one of the proposals on the table is to eliminate all sports that do not bring revenue into the school system.


Those sports include baseball, softball, tennis, indoor and outdoor track, cross country and lacrosse. Sports not in danger of elimination are football, basketball, volleyball, soccer and wrestling.

But wait, as they say in the commercials, there's more.

In addition to eliminating sports, the school board has proposed doubling athletic fees to $80 per season for county students and doubling admission prices to as much as $8 for the sporting events that remain.

Sound a little extreme? I think so, too.

I'm with Boonsboro mayor Skip Kauffman on this one: I hope it's just a scare tactic.

What good will be done by doubling the athletic fees and admission prices if you cut the number of athletes and number of sporting events in half?

And since the good citizens of Washington County are so adamant about protecting traditions and heritage, isn't a tradition like that built by the last seven girls track teams at Smithsburg worth saving?

I don't envy the members of either the Board of Education or the County Commissioners. Both groups have had to make some tough calls in order to balance their budgets. But there are other options on the table that make more sense.

While delaying salary increases is not a popular subject for anyone, those seem to be the most viable choices, and board employees surely wouldn't be the only Americans missing out on a pay raise this year.

According to figures from the board, a six-month delay in salary increases to teachers and administrators would save $1.3 million - the same amount as the budget shortfall.

Obviously, it can't and won't be that easy. It could be some combination of adjustments - a couple of job cuts, a shorter delay in salary increases, a smaller rise in the athletic fees, even eliminating one or two sports instead of seven.

Taking away half of the county's sports teams, however, is just wrong.

Several readers have called to ask when we will be publishing the All-MVAL lacrosse selections.

We generally run the all-league teams at the same time as our All-County and All-Area teams. We will begin publication of those teams on Friday.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at or 301-733-5131 ext. 2332.

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