In a 4-3 decision, the Jasper County School Board narrowly approved implementing a self-funded soccer program at Newton Community High School.
At its meeting Monday night in the high school auditorium attended by nearly 100 people, members of the public spoke both for and against adding the new sport, with concerns over whether it could additionally tax an already cash-strapped school district. Many were concerned if the self funding falls apart, if the district would have to pick up the tab. If the funding does come through, the sport would still use the district's nursing staff, physical trainer and would be overseen by the athletic director and other district staff.
The newly approved soccer team will be coed and for varsity players. Sunrise Youth Soccer Program will fund the sport with administrative oversight from the school district. Purchases for the program and transportation will be paid for independently. While the supplies, uniforms and travel will be self-funded, there are concerns about the district's involvement. Superintendent Dan Cox said he estimates between $10,000 and $18,500 will need to be raised to finance the program.
Board Member Anthony Richards, who voted no to allowing the self-funded program, said he has seen and learned about the impact cuts have on the budget and doesn't think the district needs to take on additional fiscal responsibilities.
"21 percent of our income since 2011 is gone," he said before the board voted. "I'm not against soccer, but I was elected to do what's right all of the time, not just some of the time."
Cox said the district won't really know the potential of the program until it is attempted.
"Any time kids get an opportunity to participate it's a good thing," he said. "We've got a community that's willing to try, and self-funded, we don't know whether it will work until we try. The financial climate is no doubt a difficult one, and we've got community support and people who want to try to self fund it. We'll see where it goes."
Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.