Fi­nan­cial aid will be avail­able for youth sports

The Covington News - - Front page - By Gabriel Khouli gkhouli@cov­

Fi­nan­cial aid will still be avail­able to youth ath­letes next fis­cal year, af­ter the New­ton County Re­cre­ation Com­mis­sion re­versed course Thurs­day.

The com­mis­sion orig­i­nally adopted a bud­get Mon­day that cut out fi­nan­cial aid, but dur­ing the vote only two of the six board mem­bers could clearly be heard to vote in fa­vor of the bud­get, with one mem­ber clearly op­posed. Votes were taken by say­ing “yea” and “nay.”

As it turns out, some other mem­bers were a lit­tle con­fused about the mo­tion and weren’t pre­pared to vote. In ad­di­tion, mem­bers re­ceived neg­a­tive feed­back from the com­mu­nity about cut­ting fi­nan­cial aid.

The board re­con­vened at a called meet­ing Thurs­day night and went over po­ten­tial bud­get cuts again. Re­cre­ation Di­rec­tor Tommy Hai­ley said his youth sports staff re­ex­am­ined their bud­gets and found a way to make all youth sports pay for them­selves, in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial aid costs. Pre­vi­ously, youth sports had to be sub­si­dized.

The board only lost $4,000 by of­fer­ing fi­nan­cial aid to 134 youth ath­letes last year. Fi­nan­cial aid re­cip­i­ents have to pay half of their costs up front and then re­ceive

fundrais­ing tick­ets to sell in or­der to make up the other half of their costs.

About $ 18,000 in fi­nan­cial aid was given out last year and all money was paid back ex­cept $ 4,000. Hai­ley said Fri­day that all youth par­tic­i­pants are given raf­fle tick­ets to sell and can es­sen­tially play for free if they make enough pro­ceeds.

Re­cre­ation As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor An­thony Avery said fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance is most of­ten needed by fam­i­lies with mul­ti­ple chil­dren who can’t make their sports pay­ments all at once.

Based on the new in­for­ma­tion, the board voted unan­i­mously to ap­prove a $ 1.7 mil­lion bud­get with fi­nan­cial aid pro­grams in­cluded. This time board Chair­man Johnny Press­ley asked board mem­bers to vote by rais­ing their hands, and he said fu­ture votes will be taken by raised hands to avoid con­fu­sion.

Turner Lake Com­plex will still close for 39 Satur­days next year, nearly all Satur­days ex­cept for those dur­ing bas­ket­ball sea­son. The park it­self will re­main open.

Avery said youth sports will be able to pay for them­selves by:

- cut­ting pay for score­keep­ers and of­fi­cials

- cut­ting back on part­time help

- elim­i­nat­ing meal money and ho­tel ex­penses for trav­el­ing teams

- pos­si­bly cut­ting back on all-star teams

- con­tract­ing to sell con­ces­sions at Denny Dobbs Park and bas­ket­ball games

- cut­ting out su­per­vised Sun­day prac­tices for sports teams

- re­cruit­ing and host­ing more foot­ball and base­ball tour­na­ments

The re­cre­ation com­mis­sion makes money on tour­na­ments by both charg­ing field rental fees and by mak­ing money off con­ces­sions. The com­mis­sion con­tracts with a com­pany to pro- vide con­ces­sions, but it still re­ceives a share of the prof­its.

Avery said the com­mis­sion was in no po­si­tion to op­er­ate con­ces­sions it­self as it didn’t have money to buy equip­ment and sup­plies.

The board dis­cussed cut­ting out tro­phies to save $ 18,550, but Hai­ley said re­ceiv­ing tro­phies is one of the great­est joys for chil­dren, and most board mem­bers agreed. Board mem­ber Ron­nie Bran­nen said the board al­ready raised youth sports fees last year and cut­ting tro­phies would be forc­ing par­ents to pay more for less.

No em­ploy­ees will yet have to be cut, but the bud­get doesn’t leave much room for un­ex­pected costs. Hai­ley said his staff will mon­i­tor the bud­get weekly, and if costs ex­ceed the bud­get, the board may have to vote to cut em­ploy­ees later in the year.

Sub­mit­ted photo/the Cov­ing­ton News

Game on: De­spite fears that fi­nan­cial aid would be cut for county re­cre­ation sports, such as youth base­ball (above), the re­cre­ation com­mis­sion has de­cided to con­tinue to pro­vide aid to young ath­letes.

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