Representatives from the Milton Broncos youth football team essentially delivered an ultimatum to the school board Monday night: Take over the program, or it dies.
The June 25 meeting marked the second time Broncos leadership approached the school board with the ask, and each time, members have tabled action until they receive more financial information.
The Broncos see the school district’s adoption of its two middle school-level teams as the only solution to its organizational woes. For the last three years, the team has seen declining enrollment as parents move their kids to other programs with more established leadership.
Some have expressed worry over aging equipment. Others wonder where their money goes. And recently, the longstanding program lost its 501.c3 status after failing to submit required financial disclosures for several years running.
“The program will falter and fold if the middle school isn’t ready to take on the burden,” Broncos vice president Rodney Tinker told the board.
Trustees have lingering questions about the program’s long-term costs, however. Projections from interim athletic director Trevor Wagar show running two padded flag teams would cost up to $5,000 for a coach, $2,000 for transportation and $840 for referees, plus $1,965 for uniforms and equipment every three years.
Board chairman Mike Joseph said the cost wasn’t budgeted in the voter-approved fiscal year 2019 budget. Neither was $5,000 for a varsity Ultimate team coach, a measure trustees approved Monday night in a split 3-2 vote (Joseph was among the nos.)
“This comes out of nowhere, and we’re asked to accommodate it,” he said. “I agree with both of these sports and the aspects they bring to the community, but at some point when you have $5,000 here and $5,000 there, it adds up.”
The sentiment was echoed by taxpayer Kathy Sainz, who categorized the programs as wants, not needs.
“I’m not sure that it’s fiscally responsible to use money for this program when there are probably other programs that have a more wide-ranging effect on the student population and on the community,” she said.
Board vice-chairman Rick Dooley said the decision is more complicated given the incoming athletic director’s unexpected resignation. Hired in April, Andrew Flaherty withdrew his employment this month, citing personal reasons. The district has reopened a search but won’t have someone on deck by the July 1 fiscal year start.
Middle school co-principals Megan Smith and Brandy Brown said they’d only learned of the proposal two weeks ago and haven’t had time to figure out how after-school practices mesh with other middle school activities.
Contacted via phone, Wagar told the board the arrangement wouldn’t require additional after-school supervision, since the students would go home and return for the evening practices.
But the school board’s primary concern was getting more clarity on ongoing costs, reiterating the same uncertainty that prompted them to table the discussion two weeks ago.
Trustees asked Wagar to prepare a detailed list of when equipment will need replacing, a cost-per-player breakdown based on other area programs and a budget comparing football to other middle school sports.
Expecting financial concerns, the Broncos decided to donate its usable equipment and $4,000 to defray program start-up costs. But that offer apparently has an expiration.
Asked what the Broncos would do if the board denies their request, Tinker said, “The program would shut down. We’d donate to another program.”
Hearing this, trustee Rae Couillard urged her fellow board members to take more time and consider the option.
“More information is better to make sure we’re making the right decision,” she said. “Patience is a good thing.”
But for the Broncos, it’s looking to be a long two weeks until the next board meeting.
After the discussion Monday, program leaders were unsure if they’d hold another team meeting in the meantime, and the regular ramp-up to the season is all but halted: The Broncos reportedly have no coaches and haven’t started recruiting at a point when they’re usually starting summer workouts.
“It’s not the outcome we expected,” Tinker said.