The Lakewood Township Committee on Thursday night did what the school district couldn’t and the state didn’t, and pledged to pay $84,000 to ensure the Lakewood High School football team hits the gridiron this fall.
The Lakewood school district was facing the prospect of cutting football next season, along with other sports and programs, amid a big budget shortfall that school officials are still trying to close.
Attorney Michael Inzelbuch, who is considering again becoming the Lakewood school district attorney, said he organized the football team’s appearance before the township committee on Thursday.
“Lakewood needs football,” Inzelbuch said, adding that several players on the team have college scholarship offers that they may have lost without having a football team next year.
Other Lakewood athletes have received no guarantees that they’ll be competing next school year, though Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles said the township isn’t ruling out providing more athletic funding.
“We’ll see where the summer goes,” he said, adding that the township wanted to fund football because the team was set to start practicing soon.
While Lakewood football players celebrate, district and state officials continue to work to close a more than $1.5 million budget hole. Several weeks ago, that hole was $14.7 million and the district was looking at cutting all athletics and after-schools programs, and laying off more than 100 teachers.
An $8.5 million loan from the state last month meant the district could rehire 100 teachers and reinstate baseball, soccer and track, along with arts programs. But other sports, including football, weren’t preserved by that loan.
Mike Azzara, a state-appointed school monitor, said he expects a final budget to be ready by Tuesday’s school board meeting. It’s unclear at this point if more sports programs will be saved.