There will be no bonuses for Maryland's 188 public school athletics departments this year.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association raised enough money through state tournament ticket sales and corporate sponsorship to fund its day-to-day operation and still hold a little in reserve, but there is no big surplus as had built up in the previous few years. In 2007, the MPSSAA gave each school $1,000. Last year, each got $500.
Ned Sparks, MPSSAA executive director, said that surplus was exceptional, but he had expected a small surplus this year that never materialized.
Although the recession has not taken a big bite out of interscholastic athletics in Maryland the way it has in some other areas of the country, it is nibbling into the budgets. There is still money to fund sports, but officials are cutting back wherever they can, because their dollars don't buy as much as they used to.
"We're holding our own," Sparks said, "but then again, other factors can come in and dictate the possibility of things changing."
Some areas of the country have faced shortened seasons, pay-to-play or elimination of junior varsity sports, but none of the budget proposals for the six Baltimore-area counties - Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard - have been slashed for the 2009-10 school year.
Baltimore City, however, will have to absorb some cutbacks. The budget request for the next school year is down $195,000 from this school year, a 4.6 percent cut, and $534,000, or 11 percent, since the 2007-08 school year, according to the city schools Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
Bob Wade, coordinator of athletics for the city schools, said how much and where he must cut will depend on a continuing reorganization process that will close one high school and might shift the populations of others. No sports have been cut, he said.
Harford County's budget for next school year, which already has been approved, is down $5,000, less than two-tenths of a percent, which supervisor of athletics Ken Zorbach said reflects a drop in gate receipts.
All the budget requests in other jurisdictions are slightly higher. Baltimore and Howard counties' requests reflect negotiated increases in coaches salaries and/or increases in officials fees. Carroll County's rose nearly $200,000 because it will open an eighth high school, Manchester Valley, in the fall.
Each jurisdiction, however, is penny-pinching, especially on transportation, where costs have risen the most over the past few years. The most widespread savings plans include cutting the number of scrimmages in some sports, scheduling more games closer to home, sharing buses between teams and sometimes between schools, and consolidating the costs for some indoor track meets and championship events.
While Sparks' office receives no taxpayer money, the local athletics offices depend upon that public funding as well as gate receipts.
An article in the March 31 issue of Education Week, "Sour Economy Places Athletics in Jeopardy," reported the dire straits facing prep sports programs in several states. Proposals for next school year include adding pay-to-play or eliminating all JV sports in Loudoun County, Va., and cutting funding for high school sports altogether in northern California's Dixon Unified School District.
In April, the Florida High School Athletic Association trimmed the number of varsity games by 20 percent and other levels by 40 percent for the next two years, according to a report on the FHSAA's Web site.
A couple of things that help locally, Baltimore County coordinator of athletics Ron Belinko said, are that Maryland teams don't play as many games as some other states, including Florida, and that few have freshman teams - areas where cuts are frequently made first.
Still, athletics officials are prepared for deeper cuts should they become necessary.
Mike Williams, Howard County athletics coordinator, said his plan would include dropping some scrimmages and limiting travel to within the county.
Most of the local jurisdictions are in the process of having their budgets approved by early June.
Although most budget allocations haven't changed, most county coordinators expect a drop in gate receipts from this past school year. Sparks said gate receipts at the state tournaments were down in the winter but up in the spring.
Among the county coordinators, only Belinko said his county might have increased its gate receipts. That makes a difference, because most schools keep all or some money from gate receipts. In Harford County, gate receipts fund the day-to-day operations of each school's athletics department.
In other jurisdictions, some or all of the money goes back to a general athletics fund to be used for all schools, often for big-ticket items.