Richmond County school officials are auditing high school athletic funding dating back five years after questions were raised about accountability and fairness in how the money has been doled out.
Some school board members say that, in part, they hope to find out which schools are receiving what funding and determine whether some schools have requested more funds annually because sports equipment or other items have gone missing.
School board member Frank Dolan, who requested the audit of county schools from athletic director George Bailey, says he often gets complaints from parents and booster club members who say favoritism is shown to certain schools when it comes to sports funding. He said he would like the audit to shed light on exactly how sports money is being handled.
"I want to have the entire population of Richmond County to understand where the money comes from and where it flows and have it 100 percent protected," Mr. Dolan said.
At issue, he said, are three main sources for athletic funding: independent money raised by booster clubs, budgeted central office money and sporting event gate proceeds. He said the audit won't address booster funds because those aren't controlled by the school system.
Some school officials have said more funding goes to certain schools because they have a more effective booster club or greater gate returns from sporting events. Others also have contended it has to do with which schools are requesting more money.
According to data obtained by The Chronicle through an open-records request, Richmond County high schools requested and have been granted by the school system the following total for sport equipment and jerseys this school year: Academy of Richmond County, $9,208; Butler, $20,978; Cross Creek, $9,681; Glenn Hills, $16,378; T.W. Josey, $11,312; Lucy C. Laney, $11,262; and Westside, $10,994.
School system spokesman Louis Svehla, however, says a one-year snapshot doesn't provide enough information because it doesn't show which schools ordered items in previous years and didn't need them this school year. He said the growth of interest in a particular sport in a given year also could cause one school to request more funds for jerseys.
That's one reason for having the audit go back five years.
Mr. Dolan said he also hopes the audit provides information on how gate returns are being divvied up.
"That's one of the things I want to know," he said, adding that an average high school football game brings in between $7,000 and $10,000 in gate returns.
Officials say the audit also could help board members see whether some schools repeatedly request funds to replace missing materials.
"If a particular school continues to lose their uniforms or equipment, then it needs to stop," said school board member Alex Howard. "We do not have the money to keep funding the same schools for not taking care of their equipment without any consequences."
At a recent school board committee meeting, Mr. Bailey told board members many items are received during the summer, when there's no centralized place for deliveries.
"We have found equipment in custodian lockers," he said.
Mr. Svehla said the issue is being addressed. He said that in some cases student theft or break-ins might result in missing items, but he said that doesn't seem to be a major factor in sports funding requests.
Mr. Howard said one excuse sometimes given for why some schools receive less is that some coaches might not request as much as others.
"For me, if you go back to 2005, then this will either prove or discount the notion that coaches may forget to order uniforms or equipment for that particular year," he said.
Mr. Howard said he would also like to know how much each sport costs the school system. According to Richmond County school records obtained by The Chronicle for this school year, the breakdown in central office funding per sport for middle and high schools is as follows: football, $64,096; basketball, $24,225; baseball, $18,662; softball, $14,218; track, $9,893; wrestling, $5,797; soccer, $5,559; and volleyball, $2,855. Mr. Svehla said tennis and golf weren't listed because individual schools, and not the central office, typically provide funding. These sports cost significantly less because players often provide their own equipment.
Ultimately, Mr. Dolan and Mr. Howard said, they're not trying to make a big issue of the matter but believe some fact finding is in order to move beyond the complaints.
"It's not a gotcha or anything like this," Mr. Dolan said, adding that with grades and past discipline problems improving, "We're just now kind of working down to the second-tier level, and I think this is a second-tier level (issue)."
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or email@example.com.
According to Richmond County school records obtained by The Chronicle for this school year, the central office has provided nearly $150,000 for eight middle and high school sports, with about 60 percent of the money going to football and basketball.
SPORT - FUNDING
Football - $64,096
Basketball - $24,225
Baseball - $18,662
Softball - $14,218
Track - $9,893
Wrestling - $5,797
Soccer - $5,559
Volleyball - $2,855
Total - $145,305
Note: Tennis and golf aren't listed because individual schools -- not the central office -- typically provide funding, according to school system spokesman Louis Svehla. Players in these sports typically provide their own equipment, he said.
According to data obtained by The Chronicle through an open-records request, nearly $90,000 has been requested by the seven Richmond County high schools for sports equipment and jerseys this school year. The school system granted all requests.
SCHOOL - AMOUNT
Academy of - Richmond County - $9,208
Butler - $20,978
Cross Creek - $9,681
Glenn Hills - $16,378
T.W. Josey - $11,312
Lucy C. Laney - $11,262
Westside - $10,994
Total - $89,813