MONROE, CT — Masuk High School Principal Steve Swensen recently presented a $880,904 Athletic Department budget with a $124,969 increase for fiscal year 2024-25 to the Board of Education. The bulk of the 16.5 percent hike is $96,196 more for transportation.
While All-Star Transportation, the district’s bus company, is fulfilling its obligation to provide buses to bring students to and from school, Swensen said a driver shortage has often forced Masuk to go outside of All-Star to bring its athletes to sporting events and students to other after-school activities.
Swensen said other school districts are facing the same issue, so due to the high demand, outside transportation companies can get away with charging two-to-three times what Masuk usually pays.
Before going outside of All-Star, Swensen said Masuk does what it can to work with the company to provide the buses it needs.
“They’ll say, ‘we can’t get you a bus before a certain time,'” he said. ” The problem is the game starts before that time. We do a very good job of trying to push games later. We’re doing a little better in terms of them satisfying some of the contract, but any given week we’re going outside of All-Star for two to three buses.”
The total transportation budget would rise from $162,054 in 2023-24 to $258,250 in 2024-25.
“If the cost to us to have a contract in place that the bus company is not fulfilling is $100,000 a year, it’s a problem,” Jeff Fulchino, a board member, said during the budget workshop on Jan. 2.
“I don’t disagree with you Jeff. I’m open to whatever solution is there,” Swensen said. “But there’s not a district around us that’s not dealing with similar issues. But that’s not our concern. Our concern is here. I agree with you.”
Greg Beno, a board member, asked if the contract with All-Star has any financial penalties for them for not fulfilling the need of rides to after-school activities.
Chairman David Ferris also wondered why All-Star is not absorbing the cost.
Superintendent Joseph Kobza said he is unaware of any contractual clause and will take a closer look at the contract. He said this should all be a conversation with the bus company.
Chrissy Fensore Martinez, a board member, asked if the district could enter into an agreement with a limo company or another bus company to provide rides when All-Star cannot, so administrators no longer have to scramble to get drivers at a higher cost.
Swensen said they could try, but doubted a company would agree to a contract when demand allows it to charge schools so much more.
Vice Chair Christine Cascella asked about vans the district bought for smaller teams to be taken to games.
Kobza said the vans, which can accommodate 11 passengers, are mainly for special education and have not been used for sports yet and more staff members with the proper license are needed to drive.
Uniforms, equipment …
In 2022-23, Swensen said Masuk had 557 unique athletes and 850 total athletes (which includes some of the same students playing multiple sports), 32 less students participating than in 2021-22, a year that saw a 56 student increase.
The total athletic department budget would rise from $755,934 to 880,904 if it is adopted intact.
Aside from transportation, the increase for remaining budget lines of Masuk’s athletic budget includes $28,772, which makes up 3.81 percent of the overall 16.53 percent increase. All other budget lines accounted for $593,880 in 2024 and the request is for $622,654 in 2025.
The line item for athletic equipment is $52,049 in fiscal year 2024. Swensen is asking for $67,148 in 2025, a $15,099 increase.
He told the board it is for replacing some old equipment and purchasing new equipment, adding much of it is for track and field: replacing things like hurdles, javelins, shot puts and discuses.
The line item for uniforms would increase from $35,247 to $38,000. Swensen said this is due to an increase in production costs, as well as football uniforms, which are the most expensive, being replaced next season.
“How often do you shop around for other vendors for uniforms to get best pricing when costs are going up?” Beno asked.
Swensen said the athletic director works with companies every year to get the best price, adding the more frequently a school uses a company, the more likely they are to offer them a deal.
“We are in the process of kind of transitioning over to BSN for the uniforms, even our football uniforms, instead of going with Riddell,” he said.
Dennis Condon, a board member, asked if there is a program for students to buy their uniforms with the money being used for replacement uniforms.
Swensen said there are times when athletes will buy their uniforms if they want their jersey or had to pay because they failed to turn it in at the end of the year, which helps with collecting uniforms after a season — but there is no formal program.
Swensen shared the five year uniform replacement cycle all teams are on:
- Boys lacrosse, boys-girls indoor track, boys cross country replaced in 2021-22, projected replacement year 2026-27.
- Boys-girls soccer, boys-girls tennis, field hockey, girls golf replaced in 2022-23, projected replacement year 2027-28.
- Boys-girls basketball, girls volleyball, girls lacrosse, girls cross country replaced in 2023-2024, projected replacement year 2028-29.
- Baseball, softball, boys/girls ice hockey, cheer, football scheduled to be replaced in 2024-25; next replacement year 2029-30.
- Boys-girls outdoor track, boys golf, boys volleyball, wrestling scheduled to be replaced in 2025-26.
Athletic Other Costs would increase from $36,953 in fiscal year 2024 to $40,717 in 2025, a $3,764 increase. Swensen said this covers software coaches use, such as Hudl.
One new item is Neptune Radio, an internet based radio station. Swensen said Athletic Director Craig Semple was looking into bringing it to Masuk’s athletics, adding he fully supports the move.
Swensen said it is a station Masuk’s players and teams can listen to for their pregames, etc., adding it can also be used for non-sports events requiring music.
“It’s clean music, so we don’t have to sit there and cringe as we listen to the music to see what kind of words are gonna to be coming out,” Swensen said.
He said the budget request is for a single user license, though the school would look into acquiring a second license if it goes well because Masuk often has several events going on at the same time.
Swensen said this line item includes a minimal amount of money for transportation to scrimmages, tournaments etc.
The budget proposal also includes an increase from $18,700 to $21,700 to have police officers at events for increased safety.
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