By SHERIDAN CYR
Board of Education member Patricia Queen reported good news for middle school sports at the Dec. 14 meeting. The Southington Middle School Athletics Association was able to cover fall sports and is prepared to cover the winter season, too. Queen said that SMSAA officials are “very confident” about getting through spring with fundraising efforts.
Facing budget restrictions at the town and state level, the BOE made the decision last spring to cut middle school sports from the education budget. Through a community effort, the SMSAA booster club was formed and partnered with Southington Public Schools to continue providing those programs for student athletes.
SMSAA must annually raise $40,000 to $60,000 to keep the afterschool sports programs, according to their website. SMSAA is a 501c(3) organization.
Queen reported on the Nov. 20 middle school activities committee meeting. “They feel like they’re meeting their goals, and are expanding programming for middle school students,” she said. The group has organized fundraisers including an online shopping fundraiser with LuLaRoe, a car wash, holiday wreath sales, electronic waste fundraisers and more.
“SMSAA is already producing enhanced programming for our middle school students,” said Queen. Year one focused on raising funds to restore sports programs. Year two would seek to restore the remainder and explore intramural options. Year three would expand further to reach more students with different programs.
SMSAA president Mike DeFeo, also a member of the Parks and Recreation Board, was instrumental in helping to continue middle school sports in Southington. The YMCA named DeFeo “Person of the Year” for his role in providing these afterschool programs for youth.
BOE chair Brian Goralski added that DeFeo “has done a great deal of work in this community.”
Queen said that DeFeo brought up the question of the middle school sports budget being restored in the next year’s budget. The recent gathering of the Committee of the Chairs offered a starting point for BOE budget issues.
BOE director of business and finance Sherri DiNello, director of finance Emilia Portelinha, Acting Town Manager Mark Sciota, and Superintendent Tim Connellan are scheduling a meeting where they will compare the both the town and education budgets and see if finances can be moved around.
“I trust them to look at these numbers and compare apples to apples. We will follow up with a letter to the Board of Finance after our leaders meet,” said Goralski. “We don’t want to be preemptive or irresponsible with our budget.”
DiNello explained that the governor implemented a holdback of $1.7 million to Southington, “which throws a wrench in the budget.”
The BOE seeks a $6.9 million appropriation from the town, a revenue grant that used to come directly to the town. With the governor’s original proposal, that fund was going to go directly to the BOE, and therefore the Board of Finance reduced the BOE budget by that amount. Now, in the final budget, that fund is going back to the town, leaving an unexpected hole in the BOE budget.
“This is the year for us to say, ‘it’s one checkbook. Let’s look at it together,’” said Goralski.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.