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City Facing $1 Million in Athletic Cuts : Economics: Coaches will be asked to take a 13% cut in their stipends; baseball loses seven of 17 conference games.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When City Section coaches return to school today from summer break, they will face an athletic budget that has been slashed by more than $1 million in keeping with a cost-cutting edict from the Los Angeles school board.

City officials have instituted a wide-ranging set of cutbacks that include the elimination of junior-varsity football and a reduction of the baseball schedule from 17 conference games to 10. They also have recommended a 13% cut in coaches’ stipends.

City Section Commissioner Hal Harkness, who made the recommendations after meeting with coaches, athletic directors and administrators this summer, emphasized that the cutbacks are for the 1991-92 school year only.

“None of this was done with the idea that this is permanent,” he said Wednesday. “We have to tighten our belts this year, but we hope our programs will be restored.”

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Given the current financial climate at the Los Angeles Unified School District, those hopes would appear dim. The Board of Education ordered $241 million in cuts in June and was forced this week to eliminate more than 800 teaching positions to close a $33-million budget gap.

As part of the $241-million package of cuts, the board mandated $940,000 in cuts in a $4.7-million athletic budget, or about one-tenth of 1% of the district’s overall budget of more than $3 billion.

Board members stipulated that the athletic office could not eliminate or alter the winter-session schedule that calls for schools to follow a traditional schedule even though 43 of the district’s 49 high school will be closed for six weeks in January and February. The district has adopted a year-round calendar that starts Monday. Teachers will report for work today.

The district actually cut $1,045,000 from its athletic budget after it added $105,000 to fund stipends for athletic directors, who are vital to schools’ sports programs, Harkness said.

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The cuts are shared by schools and sports equally, Harkness said, with 77% of the cuts coming in transportation and the rest in coaches’ stipends. The 13% pay cut for coaches remains only a recommendation because salary issues must be negotiated with the teachers’ union. Currently, varsity coaches in football, basketball, baseball and track draw the top stipend of $1,785 per season.

The cuts also call for the elimination of the boys’ gymnastics program throughout the district, but that sport would have been cut anyway because only two schools in the district would have fielded teams this school year, Harkness said.

Each school also must cut two paid coaching positions, including the junior-varsity football assignment, and can fund no more than 23 coaching positions.

The maximum number of nonconference games allowed in each sport was reduced by one except for football, which is allowed a 10-game schedule with the option of scheduling the 10th contest as a scrimmage. Basketball programs will be limited to three nonconference games.

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The most painful cut came in baseball, Harkness said. Teams will lose one nonconference game along with seven conference games.

The past three years, baseball teams played a 17-game conference schedule, consisting of three games each with three league opponents and two games each with four conference opponents. In 1992, teams will play each league opponent twice and each conference opponent once.

The year-round calendar also will hurt baseball because the new schedule does not include a spring break, a traditional time for tournaments.

The district also will limit transportation costs by canceling bus service on Saturdays, limiting each football team to one bus, and making local schools pay for transporting bands and drill teams to regular-season away games. The latter imperative will save the district more than $80,000, Harkness said.

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The City also has established the week of Jan. 6-10 as a dead period in which games are prohibited. In addition, basketball, wrestling and soccer coaches are barred from contact with their athletes.

Winter-sports coaches will receive 50 hours of pay at their hourly rate during the six-week period in January and February when most high schools are not in session.

Although the cuts run deep, the programs remain viable for the 1991-92 school year, Harkness said.

“Reductions were made as earnestly and fairly as possible,” he said. “Nothing mortal was proposed, and things will pretty much look the same. Maybe some schools won’t offer all the activities that they’ve offered before, but there was no wholesale elimination of programs.

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“God forbid if we had to go any further, but I still think we can provide a meaningful experience for most youngsters.”


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