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Comsewogue football league defends finances

Chris Ventura discusses Comsewogue Youth Football's finances at John F. Kennedy Middle School. Photo by Elana Glowatz

January 31, 2014 | 11:41 AM
Comsewogue Youth Football organizers held a meeting at John F. Kennedy Middle School Thursday night to share information about the league's finances with the community, days after an anonymous letter questioned their honesty, setting off a heated debate.

The league began in 2008 as part of the Suffolk County Police Athletic League and has seven teams of about 150 kids playing flag and contact football. According to Scott MacGregor, league vice president, parents have complained in the past about having to do fundraising for the league, but other than that there hadn't been a peep until the anonymous letter, which was posted to the Port Jefferson Patch.

The letter said the equipment costs should decrease because the same equipment is used from year to year; questioned where the money from successful fundraisers went and how those funds don't allow the league to lower registration fees; and said the parent who wrote it felt taken advantage of, among other concerns.

"Football is a very expensive sport," MacGregor said in an interview before the meeting.

For example, he and the other organizers send out safety equipment to be recertified every year, and everything that doesn't make the cut has to be replaced.

League President Chris Ventura explained other expenses in a presentation and said last year, the league operated at a loss of about $2,000.

Scott MacGregor explains some of Comsewogue Youth Football's expenses at John F. Kennedy Middle School. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Comsewogue Youth Football's standard registration fee is $225, and while those fees cover the "bare bones" expenses of the league — such as equipment, referee fees, lighting fees, PAL registration and insurance and uniforms — they barely cover anything beyond that. He said after those foundation costs, the league had only about $2,500 to work with last year.

Ventura listed coach courses, first aid kits and miscellaneous expenses, like small student scholarships and necessary office equipment, as additional costs for the league. While fundraising efforts — including a bake sale, car wash and donations — came close to $9,500, that total, combined with the amount left over from registration fees, did not cover the roughly $14,000 in expenses the league incurred beyond its bare bones costs.

The core group that runs the league, which includes Ventura's wife, Chrissy, Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski and Comsewogue alum Neil Swenning, does "everything we can to run this league the right way," Chris Ventura told the dozens of parents in attendance, but they get almost no help from parents. "We run it amongst ourselves because we're the only ones that are here to do it."

Though he said he and the others could examine their expenses, "I'm not going to apologize for the way we run the league."

Port Jefferson Station resident Katie Perri, who has two kids in the league, said a lack of communication is an issue, and the parents should know when the organizers hold meetings.

Ventura conceded that point, and said the group would work on posting that information to its website in the 2014 season.

Although the group of organizers is going to stay on in the next season, Ventura predicted it would be their last year and called for parents to take over.

"If nobody comes forward, the league is done. … I don't want that to happen," he said, adding the group would show any volunteers the ropes. "We're not going to throw this … thousand-pound elephant, you know, in your lap and walk away."

Scott Bruno, who has three children in Comsewogue Youth Football, said, "What you guys did was phenomenal" in starting the league. "I don't think anybody wants to see the league fold."

For anyone who has concerns, Ventura invited them to reach out to him or to PAL.

"Anybody can ask a question. You have every right to ask a question."

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