School budget proposal gives more money to ice hockey in 2013-14

The Milford Indians Hockey team formed in 1991, and since then the high school team has operated differently than other teams within the Milford school system in terms of funding. Players were responsible for footing many of the costs themselves.

That will change in 2013-14 if the school board budget is approved: Board members voted to add $10,400 to the spending plan to put the hockey team on equal footing with other sports.

Talk about the Milford Indians Hockey team took up a large portion of Tuesday’s budget workshop meeting, where board members voted on a budget plan to send forward to the Board of Finance.

The ice hockey team came up because School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser’s initial budget presentation contained more than $73,000 for a relatively new program — lacrosse, for boys and girls.

The parents and coaches of the ice hockey players looked at that as a bit of an oversight, since their team hasn’t been funded to that extent since the program started. This year hockey got about $37,200 to cover ice time, coaching and transportation.

Board members, including Chairman Tracy Casey, appeared to agree.

“I don’t want to bring in a team at $70,000 when we’re not properly funding one we already have,” Casey said.

The board voted to add $10,400 to the hockey budget, but pointed out that because ice hockey is an expensive sport, players still have to contribute money themselves. The Milford Indians Hockey Club, which is a parent group associated with the team, much like a booster club, helps with fund-raising to cover additional costs.

The team is made up of players from Jonathan Law, Foran and Platt Technical School.

Hockey Coach Sal Follo and team treasurer Arlene Willis both spoke at the board meeting and said they were thankful for the attention.

“We are definitely a sport that has been treated differently over the years, and I’m not sure why,” Willis said. “We went on for years with no funding.”

That changed in more recent years as the board started to give them some funding.

Willis said she was surprised when lacrosse, which has only existed in Milford two years, appeared in the budget proposal for 2013-14 as a regularly funded team.

“So we wanted to be heard,” Willis said.

Follo, coach for 19 years, said when he started coaching the Indians there wasn’t even money to pay him. He did it voluntarily.

“We embrace the chance to be fully acknowledged as a member of the family,” he said after the board voted to add dollars to the hockey budget.

The lacrosse team is new in Milford, having existed for two years. But for the first two years it has been funded by Milford Youth Lacrosse, a group that pushed to start the program.

The school board has proposed spending money for lacrosse coaches and other expenses next year and growing the program. The funding is expected to pay for boys’ varsity and junior varsity at both high schools, plus girls’ junior varsity. The following year, officials hope to add girls’ varsity.

Lacrosse and hockey weren’t the only sport teams to get air time at this week’s budget meeting: Cross country came up, too, and the board voted to support a new cross country coach at each high school in the 2013-14 budget.

Linwood Schulte, girls track coach at Jonathan Law High School, attended the meeting to present the case for an additional coach.

Years ago, each high school had one cross country team. It was co-ed, but in the early years there were only a few girls that went out for the team.

Over the years, more girls joined until two teams formed, a boys’ team and a girls’ team. But there was never any coaching adjustment, and the two teams remained with just one coach.

While the school board offered to fix that by adding an assistant cross country coach at each high school in 2013-14, Schulte said each team needed its own coach. The board listened and decided to propose an additional coach at each school, rather than an assistant.

Schulte made a simple statement at the end of the meeting.

“Thank you for listening,” he said.