Youth coaches were asking a $1 million question Friday about the Board of Education's proposal to save money by eliminating custodians' overtime, which would end recreation sports on weekends.
Youth basketball coach Robin Schmidt called me to say he had heard that Rec and Parks takes $1 million from its budget each year and turns it over to the school system to cover the costs of community use of the schools.
That, of course, includes youth and recreation sports.
Ron Beckett, assistant to the superintendent in charge of school services, confirmed that "it is true they do give us a million for community use."
He said that cutting out custodial overtime as proposed gives the school system a $600,000 savings potential. The board is faced with an $8 million budget deficit and is trying to find ways to save money.
But with the costs of youth activities, which require custodians to be in the buildings and to open and close them, covered by the $1 million allotment from Rec and Parks for that specific purpose one wonders how the board can take away from the communities something that was earmarked for Rec and Parks.
Beckett said, "The superintendent looks at it as dollars saved as opposed to dollars spent."
So, if the elimination of weekend and holiday custodians means a savings potential of $600,000, where is the other $400,000?
"About $300,000 has already been spent," Beckett said. "The superintendent is faced with tough decisions, and he considers the elimination of custodial overtime as a low priority for the schools, because the last thing he wants to do is have cut money for instruction, which is a top priority."
What's interesting about this is that the money used to be in the Rec and Parks budget.
"The money used to be in our budget and we would pay the custodians," said Jay Cuccia, assistant to Rec and Parks Director Joe McCann. "I don't know why, but several years ago, it was just moved over to the school budget and they paid them."
As of Friday afternoon, McCann had not yet had his requested meeting with Superintendent Larry L. Lorton and County Executive Robert R. Neall, but the three were expected to meet before tomorrow night's special board session to hash out ways to the trim the budget.
McCann said Thursday that he was optimistic something could be worked out, and let's hope it is, especially with the revelation that the custodians already have been covered by Rec and Parks.
There is no way the school board should cut community activities to resolve its financial problems. If it does, it can expect a major uprising from the already stirred-up youth groups, which could be more trouble than it's worth.
Beckett and Cuccia said they have been getting a lot of phone calls from youth organizations -- some irate, all very concerned.
After all, how can the school system use money that was meant for community use?
Thanks to Rec and Parks, the custodian overtime fee is covered and should not be dipped into at the expense of the kids and church groups. It might be wise for the board to find that $600,000 somewhere else and keep those gyms open on weekends.
I don't think the youth coaches are ready to lend money to the schools.
The bottom line is, it's got to be found somewhere else.
Now let's get to some "Q's and A's."
* Did you know that nominations are being sought by the Commission on Physical Fitness for the 12th annual County Executive's Physical Fitness awards?
Bonnie Ulrich of the commission is seeking nominations from the community, and the winners will be honored at the commission's annual awards banquet in March.
The criteria for nomination is that the individual must be a county resident who has contributed to the advancement of fitness and health in several categories.
Those categories are: health, wellness, youth sports, sports safety and physical fitness.
Nominations must be submitted by Jan. 14; forms are available at county libraries or by calling Ulrich at 757-5769.
Do you have someone in your community who deserves to be nominated? If so, make sure you put them up for the deserved honor.
* Have you heard that Baltimore will be the site March 6-8 of the National Governors Council on Physical Fitness, with Anne Arundel County Commission members invited along with film star Arnold Schwarzenegger?
* While we appreciate the mention, who wrote the sports segment of the Severna Park Senior High School parents newsletter that says the Anne Arundel County Sun football Coach of the Year was the Falcons' Andy Borland?
How confusing do you think that is to the Pete Regala family? Pete Sr., the Old Mill football coach, was the Coach of the Year, and he receives that letter because his son Pete Jr. is a senior at Severna Park.
Did Regala really think we had rescinded the first time we have named him Coach of the Year?
* Isn't it great that Riva resident Joe Aben, who played football at DeMatha in Hyattsville, has received a full scholarship to the University of Virginia to play for George Welsh's Cavaliers?