R-9 Board cuts sports programs

By Sheryl Stanley

In the face of declining student enrollments and a corresponding loss of state revenues, the Harrisonville R-9 Board of Education continued to make budget cuts during its May 19 meeting by voting to eliminate two sports programs at the high school level.

The board voted to end the girls’ swimming program and C-team sports beginning with the 2020-21 school year, a move which will save the district approximately $22,000 per year.

Superintendent Paul Mensching made the recommendation to the board during the April meeting after district officials reviewed all the activities programs offered. C-team sports, he said, are offered on the high school level for students who have not yet mastered the skills needed for junior varsity and varsity teams.

“We evaluated middle school athletics. However, the number of extracurricular offerings at the high school is much higher than the amount offered at the middle school. Furthermore, the number of students impacted by these decisions would not be as large as eliminating middle school sports and high school students would still have the opportunity to try out for the junior varsity and varsity teams.

“Girls swimming was presented as an option because it is the only sport that we offer which is not currently a conference sport. It also currently has the fewest number of participants.”

Brent Maxwell, athletic director, told the board that 40 to 50 students are typically involved in the C-team sports while the girls’ swimming team usually has 10 to 12 members.

The board’s decision was not unanimous, however, as Bing Schimmelpfenning and Doug Alexander both voted against the eliminations. The final vote was 4-2 with board members Nancy Shelton, Brittney Sexton, Tina Graef and Doug Meyer voting yes.

Schimmelpfenning said he thinks the $22,000 cost for the two programs could be offset by savings in other areas and suggested the proposal be tabled until the June meeting by which time the election results would be known.

Alexander asked if the board could consider the question of eliminating girls’ swimming separately. When told that was not possible, he hesitated a long moment before casting his “No” vote.

The decision is the latest move by the board to curb a pattern of deficit spending in past years. During the 2018-2019 school year, the district cut eight staff positions, resulting in a savings of almost $500,000. It also moved from in-house food service and custodial and maintenance services to contracted services.

This year, the district has already eliminated 9.5 positions through resignations, retirements and transfers for an additional $450,000 savings.

Last month, the board voted to accept a new insurance plan for district employees, but not before turning back a proposed 16 percent rate increase in favor of a more acceptable 4 percent increase. The increase for 2020-21 will be $68,458 as opposed to the original $272,000.

Mensching also said that in the coming year, he expects to introduce several additional measures to curb expenses. He indicated the number of first- and second-grade classes will be reduced to seven. The middle school will trim three teaching positions in math, band and social studies. The high school will do without an in-school suspension position and a drama position. Additionally, the middle school and high school will share a counseling position making a total of four counselors available for students.

The board is expected to call a special work session after the June 2 election to focus on next year’s budget which is due by July 1.