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In a close call, committee recommends lacrosse program


January 20, 2010
At a public hearing last Tuesday, the Budget Committee re-voted on the proposed petitioned warrant article requesting funding for varsity and JV lacrosse, resulting this time in a recommendation to approve funding.

At a Budget Committee meeting a few weeks back with the Gilford School District, committee discussion resulted in a 5-5 vote in response to the proposed warrant article requesting $17,603. That amount would cover "minimum costs" including transportation, referees, and coaches for the four teams. The team members would still agree to pay for their uniforms and customized equipment, which has become costly over the years.

At last Tuesday's hearing, Margo Weeks, School Board representative on the Budget Committee, suggested that the committee re-vote following the hearing, since only 10 out of 11 members were present for their final tie vote a few weeks back. After an hour-long debate, the committee voted in favor by one vote, and the petition warrant article will now go on to town voters.

Prior to the vote, residents affiliated with the Gilford boys and girls lacrosse team and local lacrosse enthusiasts explained why helping fund the varsity and junior teams would benefit Gilford High School and its students in the end.

Although most committee members said they weren't opposed to the sport or its benefits, they said some clear cut numbers for individual line items on the budget, such as referees, would have made them feel more confident in making a decision.

Coach and director of the Gilford lacrosse program Dan Kallmerten said that most high school teams, including football, have their minimum costs covered, and that it would only be fair to do so for the lacrosse team as well.

Kallmerten said that no matter which way the vote swayed last Tuesday, that the parents and members of the lacrosse program would continue to financially support the program, yet it would be harder to help out team members in need of scholarships or uniforms.

"There may be some miscommunication. I said we didn't commit to a particular number every year because we don't want to make promises that could be broken," said Kallmerten. "We want to start supporting individual players. Our intention is to shift the focus by providing equipment discounts and scholarships."

Kallmerten explained that the price of player equipment and uniforms out weighs other costs by two or three times. He said equipment must be replaced every year for safety precautions and to meet general lacrosse standards. Since each player has individualized equipment, hand-me-downs are not an option.

"We are working with the athletic director, and we will respond to whatever the need is. These are valuable programs and we need to support them," said Kallmerten. "In tough financial times, I think there is even more reason to pull together and support the community."

Selectmen representative John O'Brien asked Kallmerten if he could estimate an operational number. Kallmerten did not give set numbers but explained that through fundraising, donations, and the generosity of the parents, the program was able to succeed in prior years.

"We funded it entirely, and we are willing to do that again. We want to see the sport succeed. All sports programs cost about what we are asking for," said Kallmerten.

Budget Committee member Terry Stewart argued that the hockey team puts in a lot of their own money, and that the football team, which he viewed as similar, has been able to meet their every obligation in dollars. Stewart added that successful fundraisers offset football funding, and if potential offsets or specific line item numbers were written into the proposal, that he would be more likely to consider funding the lacrosse program.

O'Brien interjected and said that although the football and lacrosse program could be viewed as similar, he found they were not "identical" financially or program wise.

School Board member Derek Tomlinson agreed with O'Brien and commented on current financial differences as well.

"This is fundraising from the parents vs. fundraising from the community. That's why a bunch of kids can't play," said Tomlinson. "You may not like the number, but that's what every sport pays for refs and coaches."

School Board member Sue Allen suggested that the $17,603 in funding from the school would help offset the cost of players who couldn't otherwise play.

After listening to a majority of positive comments about the lacrosse program and its tie to strong student academics, Stewart said he was a lacrosse player himself, but he was not convinced that this was the right time to spend an extra $17,000.

"The point is, can we do this within the budget we already have, plus the next year, plus the next year? Many (items) will become discretionary; we are all familiar with this," said Stewart, concerned lacrosse funding requests would increase in the future.

"I would agree if the budget was up as it was in the past, but it's down," said O'Brien.

Chair of the Budget Committee Dick Hickok added that the budget might be a tough one to face next year, although he didn't find $17,000 to be an outlandish number to ask for, considering what it covered.

The Budget Committee voted 6-5 in favor of helping fund the lacrosse program for $17,603, while players and fundraising will contribute to the additional costs. The petitioned warrant article will go before voters March 9. The School Board will hold its deliberative session on Feb. 1.

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