Every penny counts in the tough economy for the Georgia High School Association.
The state’s governing body for high school athletics has made two financial concessions for next year in order to help its members.
The GHSA will waive membership dues and increase coverage of catastrophic insurance from 80- to 100-percent for the 2010-2011 athletic calendar.
On the surface, the GHSA’s gift resembles a small and nearly forgettable donation, saving each school a total of $340 to $825 for the year. However, when the numbers of the 431 members are calculated and added together, it projects to be lump sum of $245,000 in decreased revenue for the GHSA next year.
“Our feeling was that a lot of our schools are talking about ways of cutting back in their athletic programs,” said Ralph Swearngin, the GHSA’s executive director. “Some schools were going to maybe do away with their junior varsity programs, while others are limiting the amount of travel they can do.
“We were trying to do a little thing to try to help them along, so they can keep their programs going along … If our schools don’t have sports programs, then our office (GHSA) doesn’t exist.”
“It’s not going to solve their budget problems, but hopefully it is going to help.”
The two concessions, both proposed and approved by the GHSA’s executive committee, earned rave reviews by athletic directors from metro Atlanta schools:
What’s the breakdown of money? Class A schools pay $120 for membership dues and $220 for 20-percent of catastrophic insurance premiums. In Class AAAAA, the state’s largest division, the costs increase to $300 and $525.
How can the GHSA afford to forfeit a quarter of million dollars? They are counting on increased revenue at playoffs games and new corporate sponsors, among other things.
The private organization has generated gross revenues between $4.2 and 3.6 million in each of the last two years. The GHSA earns income from playoff tickets, corporate sponsorships, membership dues, coaching clinic fees, officials’ camp fees, officials’ registration fees, publication sales, vendor sales, fines and interest on financial investments.
Perhaps the biggest confidence-booster is stronger attendance numbers this year. Based on the fall sports, led by football, and the early returns on winter sports, the GHSA said fan support is nearly back to the fruitful days of two years ago. Last year, revenues were down in all sports.
“I think we’re very encouraged with what we’ve seen so far this year,” Swearngin said. “We’re still looking for ways to cut costs, but we’re seeing that people are still supporting high school sports. That’s good thing.”
However, if the economy worsens next year at the same time as the concessions, the GHSA has a backup plan. It will dip into its reserve fund of $2.4 million to pay the bills.
“We’ve never had to touch our reserve fund before, and hopefully we never will … but it’s there if we have to go in that direction,” Swearngin said.