OC school board member critical of state association spending

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OCEAN CITY — For 20 years, Jim Bauer has been on a crusade to find out what the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association does with fees collected from high schools across the state.

On Wednesday, May 28 Bauer, a longtime member of the Ocean City Board of Education once again voted no to a $2,150 payment for membership in the NJSIAA – the organization that oversees athletic endeavors - for the 2014-2015 school year.

Every year the motion passes despite his protest — this year the vote was 6 to 3. Bauer says he won’t give up, even though success would mean the Red Raider athletic program would come to a screeching halt.

It’s a matter of principle, Bauer said. He wants to know what the organization is doing with the money. Over the years, he has claimed that the NJSIAA charges exorbitant fees, the officers enjoy bloated salaries and perks and built a lavish monument of a headquarters. They overspend and raise fees, he said.

Membership fees continue to go up, he said, yet he has never received a response. Bauer vowed he would never give up trying to make the organization accountable.

“As I vote no, we are still waiting for the financial report we have not received for several years,” said Bauer.

A call to the NJSIAA headquarters on Monday, June 2 indicated that the information Bauer is seeking is readily available.

“It’s been no secret, we do an audit, it’s online,” said Steven Timco, executive director of the NJSIAA. Figures are available for 2012 and 2013. The budget for next year will be voted on this Wednesday, June 4 and will be available online as well once it is approved.

“I don’t understand why anyone would not be able to obtain this information,” Timco said. “We have a $5.2 million budget.”

Dues paid by member high schools are 18 percent of the organization’s revenue, which in 2013 was  $5,299,151, up from $5,246,541 in 2012. Dues account for $924,700 and sports activities $2,780,434.

Personnel expenses, including health care, were $1.4 million for 2013, up from $1.3 million in 2012. The organization’s net assets for 2013 were just under $2.3 million.

“I feel very passionate about this,” said Timico. “We run 32 championship sports, more than any other state in the nation. We are responsible for more than 270,000 student athletes, 28,000 coaches and 10,000 officials.”

The information available is comprehensive, he said.  Those interested in reviewing the audits may see www.njsiaa.org/financial-information.

“I don’t know how much more open someone would expect us to be,” he said.

In 2007, State Sen. John Burzichelli sponsored a law that took effect in January, 2010. The NJSIAA is only allowed to increase ticket prices during playoff matches if the game was played in a venue outside a high school stadium and only with the authority of the Commissioner of Education.

A few months later the NJSIAA increased ticket prices for an Atlantic City wrestling match. Former Commissioner of Education Brett Schundler stepped in and ordered them to stop.

Timco said the organization is limited in what can be charged.

“At Boardwalk Hall, we charge $10 for an adult, $2 for a senior citizen,” Timco said. “I personally run the wrestling tournament myself.”

Timco said he did not believe that people complained when the ticket prices were higher.

“You know, a bottle of water costs $4,” he said.   

At the Ocean City school board meeting, Bauer voted no to paying the NJSIAA dues as usual, and this year was joined by fellow board members Cecilia Gallelli-Keyes and Kim Breckley.

With three board members voting no, Superintendent Kathleen Taylor warned the board that there would be dire consequences if the school district were to decline membership in the NJSIAA.

“The difference in not paying the association fees is this, you cannot participate in any post-season championships,” she said.

Pulling out of the NJSIAA, she said, would mean all of the Red Raider sports teams would be disappointed if they could not compete for a Group III South Jersey or state championship title.

“They have control,” she said of the association, whether the school district likes it or not.

Board President Joe Clark suggested that a little housekeeping was in order.

“Yes,” Taylor said, instructing Business Administrator Pat Yacovelli to step in.

“Mr. Yacovelli, if you could please try to get a financial report, where they spend the funds,” Taylor said.

“Yes, I will,” Yacovelli said.

When reached on Monday afternoon, Taylor said Yacovelli would make sure that Bauer understood that the information was available.  

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