Supporters of Jeffersonville High School’s sports teams are demanding answers regarding rumors of an alleged “financial crisis” within the school’s athletic department.

Tonight at 7, some parents and other supporters plan to seek those answers from the Greater Clark County Schools Board of Trustees.

Ronelle Vandgrift’s son is involved in football and wrestling at Jeff High and her daughter plays in the marching band. Vandgrift said that during a meeting of football boosters last week, coach Steve Cooley informed parents the athletic department had just $8,000 to fund sports programs through the end of the spring sports season in June.

Tammi Dever, another football mom, said she has been led to believe the athletic department had $40,000 or more in certificates of deposit when Ralph Scales retired as athletic director in June 2005. Now, Dever said, she is hearing rumors that athletes’ families will have to start picking up the tabs for things — such as the expenses of traveling to away games — that have traditionally been paid by the athletic department.

“What is the athletic department’s role at Jeff High?” asked Dever. “What are their policies and procedures? What is their budget? Where is their money?”

Dever said she is concerned that if athletes’ families are asked to pay fees for away games, the school corporation could face legal problems by creating a barrier for children of less affluent families to play sports.

Superintendent Tony Bennett said concerns such as Dever’s are premature.

“There are potential initiatives we have looked at,” he said. “Nothing has been decided. We haven’t asked the booster clubs for money yet. We haven’t asked parents. We’re just not there yet.”

Bennett said he intends to find out exactly where the money went, but that he already has some idea as to what has happened.

“Have they spent beyond their revenues? Yes,” said Bennett. “They have for six of seven years. We probably haven’t taken the measures we need to get the expenses and revenues in line.

“Who’s to blame? I haven’t gotten that far yet.”

Bennett said he believes the athletic department has $15,000 to $16,000 on hand, and not the $8,000 that has been rumored. He said he is committed to working with Principal Steve Morris and Athletic Director Tony Branch to determine why the department’s funds have dwindled and what needs to be done to ensure fiscal stability.

The monies in question are not tax dollars, but are from ticket sales and private donations.

Bennett warned that even though the revenue-producing boys basketball season begins Dec. 1, the Red Devils have only eight home games — because of playing in the Indianapolis Chatard Tournament in late December — and the game against New Albany, Jeff’s biggest rival, is on the road.

Dever said she has been led to believe that Morris has assumed direct oversight of the athletic department’s budget, something which would have traditionally been Branch’s job.

“I think it’s pretty sad that a principal has to do that,” said Dever, who serves as secretary of the school’s football boosters.

“I cannot comment on that at this point in time,” said Morris, when asked if he had taken control of the department’s funds. Morris referred all other questions to Bennett.

Bennett said rumors the athletic department has frozen spending through the end of the school year are untrue.

“You don’t freeze things,” he said. “Are we going to look at expenditures more closely? Absolutely.”

Scales said he believes the athletic department did have at least $40,000 in certificates of deposit when he retired, but said he could not be certain of the exact amount without reviewing the financial records from mid-2005.

Scales said during the last five years he served as athletic director, the department saw dwindling gate receipts from basketball and had to look at ways to cut spending and generate new funds, neither of which came easily.

“You can’t blame coaches for fighting for their programs,” said Scales. “It was easier when we had more money.”

But Scales also offered a glimpse as to how rich the Red Devils’ coffers were at one time. In 2000, the department paid half the $100,000 cost of a new varsity bus — known as “Big Red” — and “we still had a bunch (of money) left,” Scales said.

Butch Coleman was a member of the school’s basketball boosters for nearly 20 years. He said when the late Mark Bixler was Jeff’s coach, he formed a booster club which had at its core alumni and business people who did not necessarily have younger family members playing for the Red Devils.

Coleman said that while parents were welcome in the club, Bixler wanted to create a group that would provide consistent funding for the team’s needs.

Former coach Mike Broughton actually would submit an annual budget to the boosters, Coleman said.

“Sometimes it was $8,000 to $10,000 a year,” said Coleman. “In the years I was involved, we strongly (financially) supported the basketball program.”

Coleman said Branch and former coach Jimmy Just wanted to reorganize the boosters in 2005 — with the goal of getting more parents involved — and that the club presented the athletic department with $6,000 when it closed out its bank account.

Dever e-mailed Bennett and school board members last week — a copy of the document was forwarded to The Evening News and The Tribune — and said she has received no response.

“I think that’s bad,” said Dever, adding that school officials’ failure to respond is a key reason she plans to attend tonight’s school board meeting.

Vandgrift said, “As a parent, I would like to fix it. I would like to know where the problem is. I’m just a mom who’s willing to roll up her sleeves and work.”

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