USOC Cuts Spending Amid Budget Crunch

Times Staff Writer

The U.S. Olympic Committee is experiencing a cash crunch but nonetheless expects to post a $16-million surplus for 2002 on revenues of about $133 million, USOC officials said Wednesday.

In a cash-saving measure, the USOC has told employees that their 2003 raises and 2002 bonuses, if any, will include gasoline from Chevron and goods from Sears, both USOC sponsors, in place of cash. Employees were told the plan would "preserve cash to keep all of our options open going into the 2004 Athens Games."

The year-end budget calculations still must be finalized and audited. But Chief Financial Officer Early Reese said Wednesday he does not expect the numbers to change significantly. "We're clearly on target for where we thought we were going to be for the year, and for the quad," he said, referring to the 2000-2004 Olympic financial cycle.

Previously, the USOC had announced 2002 budget targets of roughly $139 million in revenue and $117 million in expenses.

The revenue shortfall, just more than $5 million, Reese said, is "due primarily to the economy." The USOC made up $3.5 million of that sum through "reduced operating expenses."

The plan to award gas cards and Sears shopping credits has caused some grumbling among employees who preferred more cash in their paychecks. Reese called it a "creative" approach to using excess goods and services that USOC sponsors give the organization and that it would free cash to spend on the support of athletes.

Chevron provides "more gas than we can physically use in conducting our business," Reese said. Sears is the official supplier of home appliances for the U.S. Olympic team through 2004.

The value of the gas cards or Sears credits varies by employee according to a formula set out in a memo distributed Tuesday among USOC senior management. Any amount more than $5,000 will be awarded in cash, the memo said.

USOC staff at the training center in Lake Placid, N.Y., get only the Sears option.

In Chula Vista, Calif., and Colorado Springs, Colo., they can choose between gas or microwaves.

The memo reminds employees they will be taxed on the "full value" of the "product received."

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