By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
Athletic budget directors are cutting expenses to keep the fallout of a $4 billion state education shortfall away from athletes, and some are doing it by addressing the student meal allowances, an issue more personal to coaches than other line items.
"We've got some kids that if the school doesn't pay for it, they won't eat," said Kyle Cooper, athletic director and head football coach in Gatesville. "We feel like, if we're taking them out of town and they're missing meals then that's something we're responsible to do for them."
Some districts lump student meals into their travel budgets, which along with officials, payroll and supply make up the bulk of a sports budget.
Copperas Cove superintendent Rose Cameron estimated about 64 percent of the district's sports budget is payroll.
"There's things you know you have to put in every year and then we get to a point where we are right now where there's a shortfall and that's when the picking and choosing has to happen," Cameron said.
Many school districts are cutting back the amount they budget for student meals, such as Gatesville and Killeen, and some are doing away with those allowances altogether. The Lampasas school district relies instead on its individual sport activity funds - monies brought into a sports budget account through a single school-sponsored fundraiser - to pay for pre-and/or post-game dinners.
"You're afraid, because if a kid eats at lunch and you don't get home until 11 o'clock that night, they hadn't eaten for nearly 12 hours. That's one reason why our activity accounts can help us tremendously," said Joey McQueen, athletic director and head football coach for the Lampasas school district. "We never let our kids go without a meal when we travel."
The Killeen school district's student-athlete budget rests at about $6 a person and only in specific situations - a 40-mile, four-hour rule. If teams are going less than 40 miles one-way, the district does not pay for meals unless a team is spending more than four hours there.
School districts determine how many situations would require them to pay for student meals and doles out the money to head coaches in a lump sum. Some coaches choose to eat at a restaurant, but others get creative.
"Some of the teams plan to go and buy sandwich meat and stuff like that and take it with them and feed them that way," said Tom Rogers, athletic director for the Killeen school district. "You can always do things like that and a lot of them are doing it, and I think their kids are doing fine with it."
Athletic departments, like others within a district, are looking twice at some expenses that have long-since been accepted.
"The challenge is you've got a system in place that most people probably feel pretty good about in how we can best serve our kids. In the end, we're here to serve our kids and give them the greatest educational opportunity through the hub of athletics that we can," said Gatesville's Cooper. "The only way that you continue to do that is to get a little creative on how we spend some of those monies. How we're not spending some of those monies, and how we're going to continue to give those kids opportunities without the money being there."
Contact Kevin Posival at email@example.com or (254) 501-7562.
Area officiating budget
District 2010-2011 2011-2012
Copperas Cove $51,403* $69,170
Florence $20,018* $20,000
Killeen not available $209,000
Area supplies budget
District 2010-2011 2011-2012
Belton $260,689 $235,705
Copperas Cove $213,924 $195,988
Florence $25,997* $31,000
Gatesville $104,509 $64,198
Killeen $339,232** $629,044
Salado $86,452* $86,801
Notes: District supply budgets should not be compared, as each district lists different items under the supplies category.
*Denotes actual amount spent in 2010-2011.
**Denotes amount for all four Killeen ISD high schools