2012-04-13 / Front Page
Nonprofit sports teams may have to pay to play
Council will vote on rule—could take effect on July 1
Moorpark-based nonprofit youth sports organizations will begin paying hourly fees to play and practice at public fields beginning July 1 if the City Council approves a new set of recommendations made by the Moorpark Parks and Recreation Commission.
On April 2, the commission voted 3-1, with Commissioner Zack Cook dissenting, to recommend that certain sports groups be charged $9.75 per hour to rent Moorpark’s public fields as part of their agreement with the city.
The commissioners suggested that the fees be phased in over the next four years to reduce the financial shock to affected organizations.
Several sports groups, including the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), Moorpark Soccer Club and Moorpark Packers Football would begin paying $3.25 this year under the new agreements.
Organizations that use the city’s softball and baseball fields, such as Moorpark Little League and the Moorpark Girls Softball Association, would start at $2.25.
Jeremy Laurentowski, the city’s parks and landscape manager, said the full fees are estimated to recoup about $70,000 of the city’s $2.2 annual maintenance budget.
“Youth sports are the heaviest users of our city parks,” Laurentowski said. “To reduce the impact on the (city’s) general fund, staff is recommending that youth sports organizations pay a portion of the costs needed to maintain these facilities.”
In past years the Moorpark City Council has approved agreements for nonprofit youth sports organizations to use outdoor facilities at a fee of $1 per year.
But with increased demand for sports facilities, ongoing budget cuts and the constantly increasing water rates in Moorpark, city officials are looking for ways to recover costs, Laurentowski said.
Of the city’s $2.2-million maintenance budget, about $ 710,000 is funded through special assessment taxes. The remaining $1.5 million is covered by the general fund.
If the new fee structure for youth sports organizations is approved, it would help pay for basic mowing, watering and fertilization at the city’s 19 parks, Laurentowski said.
The parks commission initially discussed implementing fees for athletic fields on Feb. 13. But according to a city staff report, some of the recommendations needed clarification before being sent to the City Council for approval.
Besides deciding to phase in fees over four years, the commission last week also recommended that Moorpark residents comprise at least 80 percent of a particular sports group in order for the group to be eligible for the fee agreement.
Organizations must also have official nonprofit status, as well as maintain a membership of at least 75 players—all of whom must be under the age of 17 or still in high school—to be eligible for an agreement with the city.
The final recommendations were made after more than two hours of discussion last week.
Daniel Cronk, president of the Moorpark Soccer Club, was one of six speakers who addressed the commission during public comment at the April 2 meeting.
Cronk said he was concerned about the terms “inclusive” and “restricted” in the proposed fee policy, which seemed to designate whether an organization was deemed “recreational” or “competitive.”
A staff report from the February meeting defined recreational teams as those that accept players of all skill levels, while competitive teams select players based on individual skill and talent.
The original proposed fee policy would have charged competitive groups a higher fee than those designated recreational.
Joseph Johns, a volunteer coach with Moorpark Soccer Club, agreed with Cronk.
He said categorizing the groups essentially “pits organizations against each other.”
And Bill Gratke, regional commissioner of Moorpark AYSO, said the policy would divide his organization because 150 of the 1,299 players participate in an extra program that would likely be considered “competitive.”
Ultimately, the commission heard the speakers’ concerns and decided to eliminate the categories and charge all Moorpark nonprofit sports organizations the same fee.
As the only dissenting vote, Cook said he wanted to keep the current arrangement of charging eligible groups only $1 per year.
“I just don’t believe that we should be burdening families today with these increased expenses,” the commissioner said.
Tom Pflaumer, who was named chair of the parks and recreation commission following the resignation of Patrick Ellis, disagreed and said the city needs to take “baby steps” in increasing fees.
“We’ve been giving scholarship of a $1 fee for years past,” Pflaumer said. “Now it’s detrimental to our reserves in the city.”
At the end of the meeting, all the commissioners agreed to bring the issue up to the City Council’s finance committee, so they could look into potentially increasing special assessment taxes in the near future.
The recommendations will be sent to the City Council for adoption in the near future. The exact date of the meeting has not been determined.