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Budget cuts are no-win situation for NHS

The Natchez High School football team’s bye week may have had more behind it than simply giving the players a Friday night to recuperate.

With the budget cuts enacted by the Natchez-Adams School District over the summer, the football program was hit with $42,832 in cuts, and according to head coach Lance Reed, the football budget is now approximately $37,000.

With less money in the coffers, the ability to travel has taken a serious hit. That’s why the Bulldogs opened their season with road games against Wilkinson County and Ferriday high schools — neither school is more than an hour away from NHS.

Yes, playing local teams is good for both communities, but the fact of the matter is, a 5A school like NHS would be better served playing non-regional games against fellow 5A or even 6A teams. No disrespect to Wilkinson County, which beat NHS in Week 1, but generally speaking, it’s better for bigger schools to face teams that have similar depth as them. That way, by the time divisional or even postseason play begins, the Bulldogs will have been battle-tested instead of just being used to wearing out teams with less depth.

But with road games against regional foes West Jones, Laurel and Pearl River Central high schools — all more than two hours away from NHS — it’s more than likely that travel expenses had to be allocated to these road trips. You think the NHS coaches wouldn’t like their team to have faced more schools with similar depth before having to make those road trips?

Good luck competing with some of the stronger 5A schools in that case. And when you can’t afford to buy a new sled machine so your players can practice hitting against something other than themselves, do you really think you’re on even ground with some of 5A’s traditional powers?

In order to make up for the lack of funds in the football budget, NHS is having to rely heavily on its Touchdown Club to fundraise. Club members say they hope to be able to fund an athletic banquet and buy lettermen jerseys, both of which were cut from the overall athletic budget.

Here’s the problem, though: NHS is essentially having to compete with three other high schools in Adams County. Many local business owners are sending their children to one of the area’s three private schools and are likely donating any available money to those schools. In the current economy, do you really think those business owners have money to spare when they have little to no vested interest in the public schools?

Some begrudging parents and fans might picture Superintendent Frederick Hill as laughing maniacally in his office while cutting athletic funding with a big smile on his face. But Hill was very candid when I spoke to him about the cuts. He understood people are frustrated and took full responsibility that the coaches were the last to know. At the same time, he explained that the district didn’t have any choice but to cut funding with enrollment decreasing over the years.

Hill is not the bad guy here — he’s getting paid to make tough decisions, and he was just doing his job. The coaches are understandably upset about the cuts, but they all realize the situation in which the school system is. It’s a no-win situation for all parties, and it’s truly unfortunate for everyone involved.