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Darton State College athletics programs hit with budget cuts in wake of audit

Darton sports teams to see scholarship limits drop

Mike Kiefer

Mike Kiefer

ALBANY — More than $165,000 of coaches’ salaries will be absorbed into the Darton State College athletics budget, which will cause cuts and scholarship reductions in nearly every program.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents released a 2013 limited audit of Darton Wednesday that was first reported at albanyherald.com. In it were accusations that costs for the school’s athletic programs were allocated inappropriately.

In Issue 6 of the Audit Engagement Report, it was revealed that six of 19 members of the Darton athletic department had “some portion of their salary charged to the grounds maintenance department.”

The report goes on to state that for the 2013 fiscal year “some $165,635.04 in salaries were allocated to the grounds maintenance department, representing approximately 25 (percent) of the total salary expenditures paid to the individuals assigned to the DSC athletics department ($640,571.77).”

On Friday, Darton athletic director Mike Kiefer said that in wake of the audit, the athletics budget was revised to exclude using funds reserved for the grounds maintenance department. That adjustment, he said, will bring wide-ranging budget cuts to the majority of Darton’s athletic programs.

“We are certainly going to have to make some adjustments,” Kiefer said. “It will be a variety of cuts. Scholarships cuts, travel cuts, equipment supply lines. It will really be a wide variety of things.”

While Kiefer was reluctant to give exact figures on specific areas that will be cut, women’s soccer coach Ken Veilands confirmed that his annual scholarship limit was cut by 20 percent and is now at six full rides. The maximum annual scholarships allowed for NJCAA women’s soccer programs are 18.

“It will affect us in a huge, huge way,” Veilands said. “We were already operating in women’s soccer, and quite frankly in men’s soccer also, against bigger schools (with more scholarships) when we are competing in the national tournaments. This will put us back even more.”

The athletics budget will absorb the $165,635.04 that was being drawn from the grounds maintenance department, which will put a strain on coaches and players alike in the Darton athletic department, one of the most successful of its kind in the nation.

“It will be a challenge,” Kiefer said. “But we have great staff here and great student athletes. Everybody will persevere, and we will get through this thing.”

Kiefer was clear that no salaries of coaches or coaching positions will be cut in the department’s new budget, but that innovative steps will be taken to bring in more revenue.

“There are cuts, but we are also trying to find ways to increase revenue,” he said. “That might mean adding additional camps and clinics. It will be a combination of things to try to make the budget work.”

The report required that costs such as maintenance and grounds-keeping should be drawn from the athletics budget rather than from the grounds maintenance department.

“While these staff do perform some grounds keeping duties,” the report stated, “the current allocation of their salary likely exceeds the time spent performing those duties outside the realm of the athletics program particularly given that most of the grounds keeping duties they perform are for athletic fields/grounds.”

Kiefer said the practice of partially paying coaches out of the grounds maintenance budget was common knowledge and something that the DSC athletic department had been doing since its inception.

He said the news of it being in violation of policy was shocking.

“Yeah, it surprises you when you are doing something incorrectly and didn’t necessarily know any better,” Kiefer said. “It has been standard practice, probably as long as we have had athletics at Darton.

“Our coaches have to take care of their fields. The baseball coaches take care of the baseball field. They do all the cutting of grass, fertilizing, irrigation. They are responsible for that the same way the softball and soccer coaches are for their fields. They are responsible for their grounds.”

Taking care of their grounds is anything but an effortless task for many of the Darton coaches, who often spend entire work days maintaining their facilities.

“When the grass is growing and the weeds are growing, we are spending more than 20 hours a week dealing with facilities,” Veilands said. “At some points in the summer, that’s all we do all week long. There are certain days where that’s all you do.”

When asked to put a percentage on his workload between grounds maintenance and actual coaching, Veilands didn’t hesitate.

“It’s more like 60-40,” he said, giving nearly equal weight to his grounds maintenance duties. “You are talking about 15 acres.

“(The audit) almost gives the feel that we did something wrong when it’s not the case. Apparently policy wasn’t followed, but it wasn’t anything we did maliciously or on purpose.”