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LAUSD mulls fees for youth groups

Times Staff Writer

For years, the Los Angeles Unified School District has allowed nonprofit youth groups free use of its grassy fields, gyms and classrooms.

But a move to help balance the district’s budget in June signaled things were about to change. And now, Little League teams and soccer parents soon may no longer have free use of facilities as district officials move forward with plans to impose fees on youth groups.

Several proposals to implement the board’s budget-balancing decision are being considered by L.A. Unified officials. One option would have youth groups pay the district the same rates now paid by adult groups: about $77 for a permit valid for four months, and a $25.50-an-hour facility-use fee.

That would more than cover the estimated $4 million the district spends yearly on supervision, lighting, water and custodial services to accommodate youth groups, said Al Cortes, assistant superintendent for the district’s after-school programs.

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Another idea would be to charge youth groups at half the rate of adult groups. A third option would be to copy the city of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, which charges $78 for a permit valid for four months, $10 an hour for gyms and grassy fields and $5 an hour for classrooms.

Some youth groups are livid.

“It’s going to make the cost for youth sports prohibitive for some families,” said George Frangie, a member of the Northridge City Little League’s board of directors.

The most expensive of the proposals might cause some parents to pull their children out of Little League, he said. The Northridge Little League relies on school fields for practice four hours a week.

The highest fee proposal would result in a $1,200 bill each 12-week season for a 12-player team. Each player’s parents -- who already shell out a $150 equipment and uniform fee -- might have to pay an extra $100 to the Little League.

“This is just absurd,” Frangie said. “We’re here to encourage youth sports. . . . And America -- Los Angeles in particular, in our opinion -- is suffering from an obesity epidemic. We want to find ways to make them more active, not less active.”

In June, L.A. Unified approved a $6.2-billion general-fund budget that called for program and department cuts to close a $95-million shortfall.

Cortes acknowledged that many youth groups would be unhappy about incurring expenses but said the proposed fees were important for the district’s financial health.

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“We’re trying to be the caretaker for the public institution and allow the community access but at the same time have it not be a heavy burden” on the district’s budget, Cortes said.

Supt. David L. Brewer would make the final decision about the fees, Cortes said.

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ron.lin@latimes.com

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