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(TRENTON) — Assemblyman John Burzichelli on Friday sent a letter to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association suggesting that it finally begin to take steps to reduce its spending and find savings for the benefit of public schools and residents throughout the state.

Burzichelli was the sponsor of a 2007 law that recently took effect that bars the association from charging more for playoff tickets than it did for tickets during the regular season. The NJSIAA initially ignored the new law, but was directed last week by acting Education Commissioner Bret Schundler to follow it.

“Neither I nor New Jersey taxpayers want to hear cries of poverty or threats to scale back sporting events from a group that pays six figure salaries and generous benefit packages to multiple executives,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “The NJSIAA had three years to get ready for this new law but did nothing but continue its excessive spending. It’s long past time for it to take steps to rein itself in and find savings that will benefit everyone.”

Burzichelli sent the letter to the NJSIAA executive director, Steven J. Timko. In the letter, Burzichelli noted the NJSIAA’s 2009 financial report “indicates you made little effort to achieve significant efficiencies in either your administrative operation or your approach to playoff site management.”

He noted the group during a three-year period:

  • Increased school membership fees from $850 to $2,150, generating a $549,275 increase in revenues per year;
  • Gave raises to NJSIAA directors and employees in the 4 and 5 percent range;
  • Collected entry fees from teams totaling $947,205 in 2009; and
  • Kept ticket prices inflated to generate $1,051,859 in playoff event profits last year alone.

“This, coupled with a generous deferred benefit payment to each of your six directors, is hardly the good faith effort for operational reform we anticipated you would engage in when the Legislature provided the three-year enactment date,” Burzichelli wrote. “Now just as government and school districts across New Jersey are cutting budgets and doing more with less, you must do the same. Your organization is neither immune nor privileged.”

Burzichelli suggested several steps the NJSIAA could take, such as reducing its directors from six to two, cutting off deferred compensation to directors who are collecting a pension from previous school district employment and reducing salaries for directors by the amount they are receiving from taxpayer-funded pensions. Burzichelli estimated these moves could save about $430,000, and suggested that could be just a start.

“Review of your financial report shows consistent spending excesses,” Burzichelli wrote. “Cuts for expenditures such as cars, travel expenses, corporate expenses, legal fees, paid government lobbyist and the burdensome obligation of owning your own building have to be weighed, reduced and in some cases eliminated if you are going to balance your expenses with revenues.”

Burzichelli said he’s hopeful the NJSIAA will willingly make changes.

“I remain optimistic you have the ability to adapt and change with the times, ensuring your fiscal viability and continuing the good works of the organization without again burdening New Jersey’s families,” he wrote.

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