REC FEES

The Covington News - - Front page -

it­self through fees. While adult sports pro­grams do pay for them­selves, youth sports pro­grams have his­tor­i­cally lost money and been sub­si­dized through county ap­pro­pri­a­tions.

Last year, the youth spring base­ball and softball pro­grams cost a com­bined $22,000 more to op­er­ate than fees brought in, foot­ball and cheer­lead­ing cost $9,800 more and bas­ket­ball cost $6,000 more.

The rec com­mis­sion has 10 dif­fer­ent youth pro­grams ser­vic­ing 2,811 par­tic­i­pants, in­clud­ing three base­ball, three softball, two bas­ket­ball, a foot­ball and a cheer­lead­ing pro­gram.

Cur­rent fees range from $65 per child for wee league base­ball and softball to $125 for reg­u­lar base­ball, softball and foot­ball. The to­tal fees col­lected in FY2009 was $286,255.

Un­der the pro­posal be­ing con­sid­ered by the rec com­mis­sion, the least ex­pen­sive pro­grams would go up by $10 and the most ex­pen­sive pro­grams went up by ei­ther $15 or $25 per child. These re­vised fees would in­crease to­tal fee col­lec­tions by $32,420.

The foot­ball and cheer­lead­ing rates have al­ready been ad­ver­tised so they would not go into ef­fect un­til next year’s sea­son and are not in­cluded in the above fig­ure.

Com­pared to pro­grams in other coun­ties, even Newton’s in­creased rates would still be very com­pet­i­tive.

In or­der to make the up the re­main­ing deficit, the com­mis­sion also pro­posed to close Turner Lake com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity on Satur­days and to close the fa­cil­ity at 6 p.m. most week­days as op­posed to the cur­rent 8 p.m. This was ex­pected to save $8,708 in util­ity costs and $20,384 in salaries.

The com­mis­sion also pro­posed rais­ing the daily user rates at Turner Lake. Cur­rently, adults pay $2 for a daily pass, and chil­dren, aged 8 to 17, and se­niors pay $1. By rais­ing each of those rates by $1, Recre­ation Com­mis­sion Di­rec­tor Tommy Hai­ley es­ti­mated they could raise an ad­di­tional $10,000.

The com­mis­sion wanted to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to avoid cut­ting per­son­nel, and in­stead pro­posed to cut the hourly pay of all part-time hourly em­ploy­ees by $1. The only ex­cep­tions would be that no one would be al­lowed to fall be­low min­i­mum wage. This would save $14,579.

“Do we bite the bul­let and lay peo­ple off, or do we try to mi­cro­man­age?” Hai­ley asked the board, fram­ing the de­ci­sion. “It’s a catch-22. If we go up on fees, we’re try­ing to pre­vent lay­ing any­body off, but if we see ac­tiv­ity go down (be­cause of the higher prices), then we won’t need as many em­ploy­ees.”

How­ever, Hai­ley and the board de­cided they would try to avoid any lay­offs for at least an­other year. The other prob­lem with lay­offs is that for a $30,000 em­ployee, $17,000 of that could have to go back to pay­ing un­em­ploy­ment. The only cut was to a va­cant po­si­tion, a pro­gram man­ager val­ued at $44,364.

De­spite all of these cuts, the rec com­mis­sion was still around $20,000 short of its $1.8 mil­lion bud­get goal. Board mem­ber Danny Stone asked if the com­mis­sion could cover the rest of the deficit with the fund bal­ance and Hai­ley said they could. The fund bal­ance at the be­gin­ning of the year was $200,000 but some of that money was used this year to pay for trail sys­tem re­pairs and pur­chas­ing the house im­me­di­ately ad­ja­cent to Turner Lake Com­plex.

Fi­nally, the com­mis­sion is propos­ing rais­ing the rental rate by $25 for the Turner Lake pavil­ion to $175, and rais­ing the hourly rate at the Cony- ers Street gym. That older build­ing has very high util­ity rates and fees will help off­set those. Once Denny Dobbs Park is open that pavil­ion will be rented for $175.

One fu­ture prob­lem will be if the com­mis­sion needs to build any cap­i­tal projects. Those large costs would have to be funded by in­di­vid­ual pro­grams. Also any SPLOST projects would be un­wise to build if the county can’t pay main­te­nance.

“If we knew we would be in this sit­u­a­tion, we never would have opened Denny Dobbs Park,” Hai­ley said. “There’s no rea­son to build a fa­cil­ity if you can’t open it.

The rec com­mis­sion board will vote on these pro­pos­als at their of­fi­cial meet­ing June 28 at 6 p.m. at Turner Lake.

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