Nic Takes Heat For Sports Budget Board Members Question Hike In Athletic Spending
Sports teams at North Idaho College took a thrashing at its budget hearing Wednesday, and may ultimately come out bruised once the budget is approved.
The board of trustees tabled a decision on the budget, allowing time to examine athletic spending at the community college.
Board members questioned the amount spent on athletics. Also troubling them is a 64 percent jump in tuition grants and waivers to athletes, while those designated for academics will not increase.
Board member Sue Thilo questioned whether athletics is important for the academic health of NIC.
Her question was followed by one from board chairman Norm Gissel: “Is it good for the fiscal health of the taxpayers?”
The athletic department is slated to receive $604,535, an 8.9 percent increase over last year. Athletic gate receipts account for $25,000 a year.
The entire proposed budget for NIC is $18.7 million, a $1.2 million increase over last year’s budget.
Financial assistance to athletes, in the form of waivers or grants, is increasing from $198,000 to $325,314. Student assistance for the other departments - academic affairs, vocational education and students services - is not increasing.
Those three departments in total use $59,500 in grants and waivers.
President Bob Bennett told the board that private academic scholarships off-set the public assistance given to athletes.
The increase in money for athletics, in part, makes up for increases in out-of-state tuition paid by athletes.
About half of the track team’s members are from other states. A higher percentage of out-of-state students participate in men’s basketball and wrestling, according to Bennett.
He blamed a large share of the cost of athletics on travel expenses that result from belonging to the Scenic West Athletic Conference.
Dissatisfaction with increased athletic spending reaches beyond the college. Kootenai County business recruiter Bob Potter, who spoke at Wednesday night’s meeting, suggested using tax money for vocational education, not athletics.
“What is the mission of a community college,” Potter asked. “Three out of four of our young men and women are not pursuing a college degree.”
The board also heard from Coeur d’Alene resident Ray Bradley, who said he is being priced out of his dream home because of rising taxes. The board’s decision to examine spending will be welcomed by many faculty members, said Virginia Johnson, chairwoman of the English and foreign language division.
“There’s a lot of hard feelings about that,” she said.
The trustees decided to hold a workshop to discuss the role of athletics at NIC on Aug. 12.