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NJSIAA says budget woes triggered cuts

Among the reductions is the elimination of the underfunded steroid-testing program.

In a sign of changing times, the NJSIAA announced Wednesday the elimination of its steroid-testing program as well as a significant restructuring of its administrative operation because of the pending retirement of two of its six full-time directors.

The moves were part of cost-cutting measures that will slash $530,861 from the organization's budget, according to NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko.

The 2010-11 budget of $5,295,353, which represents a 9.11 percent reduction from the 2009-10 budget, was approved by a 31-0 vote by the organization's executive committee at its final meeting of the school year.

"We've made our move," Timko said.

The NJSIAA has been under pressure from Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D., Gloucester) to reduce administrative costs as a result of reduced revenues from tickets to state tournaments.

Burzichelli sponsored a law that went into effect Jan. 29 that prohibits the NJSIAA from charging higher prices for tournament events than regular-season events, with some exceptions.

"It's a step in the right direction," Burzichelli said of the NJSIAA's cost-cutting measures. "We'll see if this is enough for the long haul."

Timko said the NJSIAA projects a $638,755 shortfall in 2010-11, which will be covered by the organization's $1.2 million surplus.

"This can only go on for so long before the impact is greater," Timko said.

Timko declined to speculate on the need to eliminate state tournaments in some sports for 2011-12 if the NJSIAA continues to operate at a yearly loss.

But the severity of the situation moved the executive committee to issue a proclamation declaring that the law that took effect in January "will continue to impede, erode and diminish the quality of services provided to New Jersey's athletic community."

The resolution also called on member schools to implement "modest increases" in ticket prices for regular-season events, and asked the state legislature to amend the law "since the interpretation given to that statute will make it extraordinarily difficult to continue NJSIAA tournaments in the future."

Burzichelli reacted strongly to the resolution.

"It's one step forward, and two steps back," he said.

The assemblyman said it was unlikely that the state legislature would amend the law to allow for higher prices.

But in a bit of a compromise, Burzichelli said he would be amenable to an amendment that allows sports at which no admission fee is charged during the regular season - such as baseball, softball, field hockey, soccer and lacrosse, among others - to be grouped with sports such as football for the purposes of allowing the NJSIAA to charge admission to tournament games.

Currently, the NJSIAA is charging $5 for adults and nothing for students and senior citizens to spring championship events. The state commissioner of education, Bret Schundler, recently issued a ruling allowing the NJSIAA to charge those prices.

Last year, the NJSIAA charged $7 and $4 to those events.

Timko announced that director Bob Baly would retire Dec. 31. Director Carol Parsons had previously announced that she was retiring Aug. 31.

Timko said Parsons' position would be filled, at a salary that would be a $50,000 cut from Parsons' annual earnings of $119,000, plus $11,900 in deferred compensation. Timko also said the NJSIAA would save $58,000 in next year's budget because Baly would work only half of the year and would not be replaced.

In addition, Timko said the organization was subtracting the $34,000 salary of a mail-room worker and was freezing the salaries of the remaining employees for the 2010-11 year.

"We're saving $141,000 in salaries," Timko said.

The NJSIAA was one of the few state organizations in the country to implement steroid testing when the program began in 2006. But the program was half-funded by a $50,000 grant from state legislature that has been eliminated.

"That was a very difficult decision," Timko said. "We were at the forefront. If funding became available, I would love to try to bring it back."