Money well spent? |

Money well spent?

I’m not about to tell Nevada Joint Union High School District officials how to balance its expected shortfall in state funding.

And with my math skills, believe me, that’s not a bad thing.

But area school officials are already looking for ways to tighten their budgetary belts, hoping to keep Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed $10 billion budget cuts from reaching the classroom.

Apparently as a measure to head such cuts off at the pass, some Nevada Union High School administrators have suggested offering up a slew of “secondary” sports as sacrificial lambs.

An internal memo anonymously faxed to The Union a few weeks ago discussed two proposals for cutting $50,000 from NU’s athletic budget. Plan A suggested collecting a $100 fee from each athlete for participation in each sport of his or her choice. Such fees would be earmarked for each sport, boosting each program’s budget and funding transportation costs.

The other option presented in the memo – Plan B – calls for eliminating several “nonleague” programs from the athletic department’s budget entirely. Winter snow sports, water polo, and boys volleyball would all be shelved under that option, along with varsity swimming and essentially all freshmen sports.

Of course, whether either plan sees the light of day remains to be seen.

But considering NU’s classroom budgets have already been frozen, I’d expect few teachers to join me atop a soapbox to preach the importance of sports. After all, the term “scholar-athlete” leaves little question in which aspect should come first.

At Monday’s town meeting at the Senior Center, where area teachers, students and parents voiced their concerns over funding priorities, an audience member told a standing-room-only crowd that she would bet the community could come up with the $50,000 within three months.

I agree.

After all, watching communities come to the rescue of sports teams is nothing new. And $50,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to what taxpayers across the country have pooled together to keep their teams in town.

I watched it happen in Indianapolis in 1997, when millionaire brothers Herb and Mel Simon had Hoosier taxpayers pick up the tab on the construction of Conseco Fieldhouse.

The Simons got new digs for their Pacer basketball franchise on the taxpayers’ dime and also were thrown a sweet deal that pays them all revenue from all events taking stage there. In addition, the city of Indianapolis also pays nearly $4 million per year to subsidize the burden of utilities and maintenance costs for the new facility.

Indy residents, of course, got to keep the team.

And now Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay has the city pondering the same predicament. If he doesn’t get his share of the corporate welfare, California (L.A. In this case), here he comes.

But considering the crunch now put on California’s budget, it will be interesting to see what happens in Sacramento, which is studying options for building a new home for its Kings.

Whether that three-month study suggests building downtown (in hopes of spurring redevelopment) or constructing an area on the edge of town (as was the case with Arco Arena) really should be a secondary question.

The real issue is whether any public money should be spent on a new arena.

If school districts start scrapping extra-curricular activities across California, it’d be a hard sell for the Maloof brothers to make. Wouldn’t it?

After all, which would be a better investment – lining the pockets of multimillionaire owners like the Maloofs or making sure cash-strapped high schools can simply offer opportunities to participate?

I know the former may make more money, but the latter certainly makes more sense.

Brian Hamilton is The Union sports editor. He may be reached via email at

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