Durango (Colo.) School District 9-R failed to raise enough money to cover an annual loan payment for a stadium renovation completed in 2016 at Durango High School, which has left the district scrambling to pay a budget shortfall ahead of planned budget cuts for the 2019-20 school year, according to The Journal of Cortez, Colo.
The district spent $2.55 million to renovate the stadium because the field was compacted and uneven. The field was so unsafe that a middle school student suffered a broken spine on the turf, superintendent Dan Snowberger said. The track was in such poor shape, the school couldn’t host meets.
The district paid for a portion of the stadium up front with capital funds, and it took out a $1.9 million loan for the rest, according to the district. The district and Durango High School agreed to split the annual $212,000 loan payments that must be paid until 2026.
While the field was being planned, the principal and former athletic director Dave Preszler had a number of fundraising ideas to cover the high school’s expense, but “none of those have materialized,” Snowberger said. Other fundraising ideas since have never come to fruition.
When the current loan payment came due in May, an email dated May 20 from outgoing athletic director Adam Bright told coaches that the athletic department had a $100,000 budget shortfall and that funds raised by individual teams could be moved to cover the shortfall. Bright, whose last day at the school is today, said such a diversion of funds was not a preferred option and he wanted limited use of those funds.
Three days later, a letter to parents signed by Snowberger and two other district officials suggested that money raised by individual teams may be tapped to contribute to the loan payment. These funds, called 74 Funds, typically cover team meals and other functions not covered by the district. The potential diversion of these funds, raised by team members and their parents, did not sit well with either group.
In the district’s letter to parents, Snowberger said Bright was informed of his responsibility to raise $100,000 for the loan payment on several occasions. In May 2018, Snowberger said Bright was told the stadium payment would be moving from the capital funds budget where it had been for two years into the athletics budget.
Snowberger said Friday that 74 Funds definitely won’t be used, despite the May 23 letter that said 74 Funds could be used as a “last resort.” However, some funding raised by teams will have to be used to cover expenses that were inappropriately charged to the district’s general fund, Snowberger said. In some cases, teams may have used general funds to cover team dinners and other expenses not covered by the district, he said. Teams will be expected to cover only expenses they incurred and not expenses incurred by other teams on campus.
A meeting for parents about athletics funding will be held today at 6:30 p.m.