Lingle: Athletics
exempt from cuts

But Hamamoto is wary of
the governor's claim that hits
to the DOE budget
will not impact sports

Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday that high school sports are exempt from budget cuts throughout the 2003-04 fiscal year.

"Sports is not included in the 20-percent state budget restriction," Lingle said in a telephone interview. "So I don't know why people are giving out false information."

Public schools and leagues across the state have feared budget cuts might cause cancellation of or severe cutbacks in some sports, small and large.

But Lingle said reports that the Oahu Interscholastic Association might have to cut a sport such as bowling are untrue.

"On a national scale, when the national parks budget is cut, those parks (will publicize) that they've got to cut down on tours, knowing it will aggravate the most people," Lingle said. "The DOE picked sports ... anything that will rile people up to put public pressure to get all the money they want. The fact is our state doesn't have all the money they want. But they shouldn't be going around telling people they can't have bowling.

"... There will be no impact to high school sports."

In early July, after receiving input from all of the state's departments about the proposed budget restrictions, state finance director Georgina Kawamura recognized that her department "erred" in not originally exempting school-level services (which includes athletics) from budget cuts. Lingle's office then took steps to exempt the school-level services.

But Pat Hamamoto, the DOE's superintendent of schools, said yesterday she disagrees with Lingle's assessment that sports won't be affected.

Hamamoto said just because Lingle said sports are exempt doesn't mean the DOE isn't going to be forced to make cuts that will affect athletics.

She added that if the DOE cuts non-exempt services and personnel (such as office clerks, payroll clerks and computer system operators) then it would be difficult for athletics to continue to function.

So instead of eliminating one program and keeping another, Hamamoto said, the DOE tried to apply the state's first-quarter allocation of $6.2 million in such a way that would keep all programs running as smoothly as possible with a possible shaky future looming.

DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen said the first-quarter allocation is $3 million less than it would have been without the cuts, which means many programs (including athletics) have less money to work with than they anticipated.

Knudsen emphasized that the DOE's plan of action is not final.

Lenny Klompus, a governor's aide, said sports are fully funded for the first quarter, and he's optimistic sports will be fully funded for the rest of the fiscal year (ending June 30, 2004) after the governor's council on revenue meets early next month.

"We're not going to fund by quarters. We plan on funding for the rest of the year, period," Klompus said. "If that meeting goes like we think it will and hope it will, there shouldn't be any problem (with sports funding)."

Lingle met with Klompus, chief of staff Bob Awana, Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya and Hana High School athletic director Keith Morioka on Tuesday to discuss the athletic financial concerns.

Klompus proposed the meeting between Amemiya and Lingle and asked Amemiya to also invite OIA executive secretary Dwight Toyama and any other concerned athletic executives. But Toyama didn't attend.

"They (Amemiya and Morioka) left that meeting pleasantly surprised," Klompus said.

Amemiya declined comment on that meeting until he can discuss it with the executive secretaries of the state's four leagues that have public-school membership.


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