BELLEFONTE — The sport of lacrosse is growing across the region and Bellefonte is no exception. At its May 22 meeting, Bellefonte Area School District's board of directors recognized this growth and voted to include it as a varsity sport.
Operating as club for the past few years, the team has grown to almost 100 members. Many of those team members and parents pleaded with the school for the sport to be offered as a varsity, school-supported sport. After some debate due to the continued rise of the district's athletic budget, the board voted 6-2 is favor of the addition. This came after the board agreed to continue to fund all the varsity sports from the past year and voted against adding middle school volleyball to the budget.
Voting against the change were school board president Rodney Musser and board member Bob Lumley-Sapanski. Board members voting for the status change were Kristen Bruckner, Kimberly Hearn, Lorraine Mulfinger, Jeff Steiner, Jon Guizar and Robert Pacella. Hope Boylston was absent.
The sport will raise the athletic budget by an estimated $130,000, bringing the budget total to $945,000 for the year. For homeowners living in the district who were already looking at a tax increase in the 2018-19 proposed final budget, the tax increase will now be higher, according to director of fiscal affairs Ken Bean. What was set to be a 2.3 percent increase would rise to a 3 percent increase, which is the highest allowable increase in accordance with the Act 1 index.
Bean said he is working on some way to bring the budget down, and will bring those ideas to the next school board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 12.
The board wrestled with adding a higher tax budget, but most felt it was in the best interest of the kids and the community to add the sport.
The district is in need of fiduciary responsibility, Guizar said, but he voted yes because "we're here for the students" and the district is getting "value for the dollar here.”
Board member Robert Pacella also is a volunteer firefighter who said he has seen what happens when kids don’t have activities like sports in their lives.
“It is commendable that we can provide an opportunity to save some lives,” said Pacella. He said he has had to respond to kids who have overdosed on drugs and that sport can provide other opportunities. “Even if we just help one kid, we should do it.”
Musser said the athletic budget being out of control has been a longtime issue, and that he could not vote to add a sport with that being the case. He also added that once a sport is in, it is difficult to drop it. He is concerned that with the addition of lacrosse, BASD will continue to have a very high budget.
Correction: A comment by board member Jon Guizar on his reasons for voting yes on the lacrosse proposal was incorrectly attributed to board member Jeff Steiner in an earlier version of this story.