Amsterdam swim, cheerleading teams ‘set aside’ in 2020-21 budget

Teams could be brought back depending on state aid; multiple modified 'B' teams also eliminated as part of $75,000 in cuts to athletics budget
Amsterdam’s Alex Slovack swims the in the 200-yard individual medley during a Dec. 16 meet at Lynch Literacy Academy.
Amsterdam’s Alex Slovack swims the in the 200-yard individual medley during a Dec. 16 meet at Lynch Literacy Academy.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

With the Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education adopting a “worst-case scenario” budget that includes $75,000 in cuts to the district’s athletic programs, the district’s varsity swim and cheerleading programs have been “set aside until a time comes that we can bring them back,” according to an email from Amsterdam athletic director Steve Nolan.

Multiple modified ‘B’ teams are also among the cuts, as are cuts involving the district’s swimming pool and adult use of facilities.

Cuts were necessary in a budget that the board passed Tuesday night, anticipating a significant drop in state aid due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first areas examined for cuts, Nolan said in his email, were those that only impacted adults, including a reduction in supervision at some athletic contests and ticket sellers. From there, cuts were made to activities that only centered around adult use of facilities and the swimming pool at Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy.

Cuts were then made to “teams that have had low participation over the last few years and non-competitive activities.”

During the 2019-20 school year, Amsterdam had only five participants on its girls’ swim team in the fall and nine participants on its boys’ swim team during the winter. The varsity cheerleading team listed 13 members on its 2019-20 roster.

Savings, Nolan said, “come from fall and winter coaching salaries, transportation and officials where applicable.”

Nancy Spagnola, who coaches both the varsity boys’ and girls’ swim teams, said she had not been officially informed of the decision as of Thursday afternoon, but she and assistant coach Marisha Gennett were wary of the possibility considering the low participation numbers.

“It would be very upsetting. We haven’t heard anything,” Spagnola said in a phone interview. “It would be really upsetting, especially because we were kind of in the process of rebuilding — especially with our boys’ team. . . . We were worried when we saw that teams with lower participation [could be cut].”

Amsterdam has struggled with participation for both boys’ and girls’ swimming for the better part of a decade. The boys’ team showed improvement this past season, winning a pair of dual meets and proving more competitive despite dealing with a numbers disadvantage.

“We were contenders, even with smaller numbers,” Spagnola said. “A couple of those kids are seniors, and they would be so disappointed. . . . We were competitive, even with our lower numbers, because the kids were so good.”

At the modified level, the 2020-21 budget cuts the modified ‘B’ teams for baseball, softball and volleyball, though the district will still sponsor modified ‘A’ teams in each of those sports.

With those cuts, savings will also come from coaching salaries, transportation costs and paying for officials. Supervision will also be a savings at all reductions other than cheerleading, Nolan said.

Amsterdam’s 2020-21 budget will be voted on by the public June 9 in an absentee-only ballot process. The budget calls for a 3% increase to the district’s tax levy and a nearly 1.7% cut in spending from the 2019-20 budget.

The ballot needs only a simple majority to pass, as the district did not exceed its tax cap. However, if the budget fails, the district would have to move immediately to adopt a contingency budget which, GASD Interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello warned during Tuesday’s board meeting, would lead to the elimination of all of the district’s athletic programs from the 2020-21 budget.


A year removed from the drama of a failed budget vote and the near-elimination of athletic programs at the Greater Johnstown School District — saved only by a massive, $300,000 private fundraising effort — the district’s 2020-21 budget provides funding for all athletic programs at the same level as the 2018-19 budget, interim superintendent Karen Geelan said Thursday in a phone interview.

“We’re starting with a full-time athletic director and the full contingency of sports,” Geelan said. “It’s all in our budget.”

The funding of sports at the same level as 2018-19 does include the elimination of all modified ‘B’ teams. Geelan said. 

“The modified ‘A’ teams are all there,” she said. “It just comes down to that we can only run one team, not two, at the modified level. . . . We don’t have as many kids anymore, and that’s why we don’t need to run the two teams.”

The 2020-21 GJSD budget calls for a 5% tax levy increase. With the district’s tax cap set at negative-2% following its recent bouts with financial difficulty, the budget will need a 60% supermajority to be approved by the voting public June 9.

If the budget fails, the district will cut “some to all” of its athletic programs. In that scenario, Geelan said, the district is exploring an option where it can offer three sports — one boys’, one girls’ and one co-ed — in each semester.

“We’re going to step back and have to look at a lot of things [in a contingency budget],” she added. “You take a reasonable approach. That’s what we’ve been talking about with our board. You would look at student participation, you would look at the cost of that sport, and we want to make sure that there is something for boys and girls at every level — if we can afford that. We don’t want to take that draconian move of just saying ‘eliminate it all,’ we want to take a more surgical approach to it. How can we still deliver the most options and opportunities that we can to our students?”

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