Vote 'No' On Tax Cap, But 'yes' For Big Lew


November 02, 1990|By PAT O'MALLEY

They say it's a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and that applies to sports, too.

It's the people who can have a say about whether or not the county's high school athletic budget is cut, and it's the people who can decide if conducting a Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series for 18-year-olds in this county is worth it.

The first item is Question D, which will be on Tuesday's ballot at the polls. The second item is down the road for next summer and could be called Proposition "Big Lew," which is for Lew Holmes, the county's amateur baseball dynamo, who will be out beating the bushes for a corporate sponsor and community support to bring a first-class world series to this county.

Question D is the most popular of the two items to you, I'm sure. For those of you who will exercise your privilege and obligation to vote on Tuesday, the Anne Arundel County Coaches Association is urging you to vote against Question D.

That proposal, supporters say, would limit property tax revenue growth to 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

Such a tax cap could result in drastic cutbacks in education, including extracurricular activities and high school athletics.

County coaches are so concerned that they as a group want voters to know that a vote for the tax cap is ultimately a vote against high school sports. And that, my friends, is dangerous no matter how minute it may seem now.

We've seen how fast an athletic program can go up in flames as evidenced by the sudden threatened demise of the Towson State University football program. Lack of proper financing has put the Tigers' future in serious jeopardy.

"Something has to go, and that's what worries us when you consider that it would be a 14 percent cut across the board," said Bart Rader, Northeast High football coach and four-year president of the County Coaches Association.

"We want to let people know that they should vote against proposition D or face serious cutbacks in our athletic program."

Rader is right, and so is School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton who sent a two-page letter home with more than 65,000 county students asking their voting parents to vote against the measure.

It took a lot of guts and vision on Lorton's part to stick his neck out the way he did, but the man cares about kids and knows the educational values of athletics and extracurricular activities. Lorton is a former coach and truly understands the need for athletics to complement the classroom education.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Lorton's motive is primarily high school sports, because it's not. His main concern is the overall educational system and how a tax cap could trickle down and damage the main fibers, sports being one of those integral parts.

How could it hurt high school athletics?

It could start off with things like cutting transportation to games that suddenly could limit teams to schedules within the county or schools in the immediate area. Certain schools that county teams now play from Prince George's, Montgomery and other counties could be eliminated.

Scrimmages, which provide teams and coaches a valuable gauge on where teams need to improve, could be shelved. Buses that transport student/athletes and other extracurricular kids such as band members could be history.

Bands that for the most part add class and pageantry to a great family Friday night out when football teams play could be in jeopardy down the road.

And what about equipment?

Reconditioning of helmets and pads in football, for instance is costly, like nearly $3,500 per school. With a tax cap, county administrators might have to say, "We can't afford it anymore."

So what happens then? Well, the kids may continue to play with inferior and unsafe equipment in football, lacrosse and other sports. Teams would be forced to find ways to cut corners and possibly the safety of the kids to equip their players.

It would not be a healthy situation and could lead to limiting the number of kids who could play junior varsity football, for instance, or even worse, could in some cases, eliminate junior varsity sports.

Budget cuts could mean dropping a cross country or track program that only draws a handful of kids, yet serves a valuable purpose. The so-called minor sports, some of which don't produce revenue in terms of ticket sales like football and basketball do, ultimately could be in jeopardy when further cuts become necessary.

Coaches' jobs could be lost as well, especially with this idea of volunteer coaches gaining momentum. In attempts to keep the athletic program afloat, if it ever gets to such drastic stages, county administrators could decide to pay only head coaches and use volunteer coaches as assistants.

That would be a pity for an athletic program that is thriving overall with quality and great people. We can't let it come to that.

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