Port Orange city council voted 4-1 to pass a resolution to increase parks and recreation partner fees at the city council meeting on March 5.
Port Orange families will have to pay more for each child participating in a sports programs that use city facilities, as the City council voted 4-1 to increase the Parks and Recreation partner fees at the council meeting on Tuesday, March 5. Mayor Don Burnette voted against the resolution.
The parks and recreation board made the recommendation to staff for a fee increase because the city has collected only 5.5% of the revenue to run programs from athletic partners, with the greatest percentage of revenue coming from Port Orange residents through taxes. Parks and recreation staff agreed with the board’s recommendation to raise the annual fee for a full-year program from $4,000 to $6,866, which represents a 15% cost recovery from partners.
In addition to a fee increase, the parks and recreation board recommended there be a maximum annual use allowance. Anything over that use, the partner would have to pay $11.22 per hour. The board also recommended that the 50% residency requirement to play sports remain the same.
Councilman Scott Stiltner found the residency rate to be too low. He said the cost of maintaining city facilities, as well as use and demand, is continuing to increase.
"The tax payers of Port Orange significantly, overwhelmingly, offset the cost, yet we’re having a residency rate that is far too low," Stiltner said. "I think it should be 80% to be honest with you.”
Community members that represented some of the athletic programs that use the outdoor and indoor city facilities gathered to speak in protest of the rate increase, saying a fee increase would place a burden on smaller programs to come up with money to participate, and may cause them to shut down.
Larger programs, such as football, have increased cost for equipment each year. Helmets are changed yearly and shoulder pads have to be replaced every three years for a cost of $30,000. A fee increase would place a heavier burden on them, said Shawn Holmes, president of the Port Orange Youth Football and Cheer Association.
Port Orange resident Rachel Truxall, a volunteer with the Port Orange Volleyball Club, said that the club seeks out children who often have financial difficulties and would not have an opportunity to play sports without financial sponsorship. A fee increase would hurt the program.
“The 50% residency requirement is difficult to maintain,” Truxall said. “Families come to Port Orange from other communities three to five days per week and spend hundreds of dollars in the city.”
Residents stressed to the council that participation in sports programs in Port Orange is an investment in the city’s future because it keeps children off the streets and away from negative influences. Those children grow up to live in the Port Orange community and raise their children.
“There is one line item I have not heard about tonight and that is an investment in the kids,” said Mike Belus, director of operations for the Port Orange Lady Panthers fast pitch baseball club.
The kids in the program are off the streets, he added; They're investing in other teams by helping out with coaching.
"These children are becoming something because of what we do, because of all our volunteer time that we put in," Belus said. "There’s no line item that’s ever gonna cover the pay back we’re gonna receive from these children being part of this community.”
Vice Mayor Chase Tramont said he understood that fee increases place a burden on families, explaining he is a coach and a father of children who participate in the partnership programs. Any fee increase hurts him as a “pay check to pay check guy.”
“Never the less, I can’t look at it from that perspective," Tramont said. "I have to look at it from a budgetary, fiscal perspective."
He said one of the roles of local government is to provide parks and recreation, and not to provide a competitive environment to prepare players for college.
"I don’t believe that wanting to balance our books a little better means we’re against youth sports," Tramont said.
Interim Councilman Jack Wiles said it will end up costing each player an extra $40 per year to participate in club sports. He encouraged clubs to do more tournaments in the city since it helps generate income for both the clubs and the city.
Burnette, who voted against passing the resolution, said the increase was difficult for him because, not that long ago, he was on the field with his children with Pop Warner. But, last year was tough for the city from a budgetary standpoint, he said.
"Giant hurricanes blew huge holes in the budget, and yet we wanted to at least hold the line on the services we provide, not just for parks and rec, but public safety and the like," Burnette said. "All those things are important. This is tough for me because I also recognize that while we need more cost participation so we’re not going back to the tax payers one more time, I also realize if we go too far with it, we can break some peoples’ backs, so we have to be very careful.”
This story was updated at 2:33 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, to reflect Interim Councilman Jack Wiles said that the fee increase would cost players an extra $40 per year. A previous version misquoted Wiles as saying it cost $40 per year for players to participate in club sports.