Section XI and Suffolk County's referees have agreed to terms...

Section XI and Suffolk County's referees have agreed to terms on a new contract. Credit: Lee S. Weissman

Section XI, the governing body of scholastic sports in Suffolk County, and its referees have come to an agreement on a new contract for the upcoming season.

Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, said Friday that the two sides came to terms on a three-year deal that would need to be ratified by the executive board of directors for Section XI and the officials’ associations.

"We agreed to a contract [Thursday] night that must be ratified by both sides,” Combs said. “There is no deadline for a ratification. I do know our executive board will meet next week. We hope the officials move on this quickly.”

The agreement helped the two sides avoid mediation or binding arbitration, which could have affected the start of the fall sports season. The previous five-year contract, which went into effect on July 1, 2018, expired on June 30.

"We need to move forward and get going on schedules for the fall season,” Combs said. "When you realize how many contests we must schedule, we’re up against it time-wise.”

Combs said his office schedules a little more than 35,000 contests per school year, including high school varsity and junior varsity as well as middle school events.

"We assign one of the busiest schedules because we have more teams in the fall than any other season,” he said. “It puts a big burden on our office.”

Rita Reagan-Redko, president of the officials negotiating committee, and Carl Nelson, who officiates five school sports and also serves on the committee, have yet to return calls  from Newsday. Phone calls to Carol Lovrich, Jim Kay and Nancy Van Houten, the three other members of the officials negotiating committee, also have yet to be returned.

The president’s council for all officials’ associations is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the contract.

"We agreed on a 2% raise the first year, and 3% for the second and third years of the contract,” Combs said. “This year’s budget was set in December for athletics in all school districts. So they should have had the 2% increase for this year and then come up with a plan in the budget for the increase moving forward. The Section XI finance committee recommended a 2% in December and it is within our budgetary numbers."

The cost for officials is estimated to be around $3.4 million in Suffolk for the upcoming school year. Combs has said more than 700 officials are affected.

Under the previous contract, referees and umpires for varsity baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, lacrosse and gymnastics made $131 per  event last season. Varsity football officials made $134 per game, and varsity wrestling referees were paid $139 last season.

"The officials remain the highest paid in the country,” Combs said. “We are proud of this and expect them to perform like it. They are compensated at a very good rate.”

Pat Pizzarelli, the executive director for Section VIII, which governs all Nassau athletics, said the sectional contract for his county runs through 2025.

“They need to get it ratified in Suffolk,” Pizzarelli said. “We feel we have a very fair contract in Nassau, and we’re working to increase our numbers of officials in every sport this year because we have a severe shortage.”

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