EDITORIAL:

Budget cuts have been slicing through the city in seemingly every area, and newly proposed park fees show that children aren’t exempt even outside the classroom.

Officials with the American Youth Soccer Organization and Little League are the ones voicing their displeasure with the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission’s approval of hourly fees for use of local fields, but children would be the victims.

AYSO’s slogan is “Everyone plays,” but would everyone play if everyone had to pay more than the current $80 to $100 registration fee? Maybe not.

The $4-per-hour fee for use of city fields in 2008-09 would rise incrementally to $14 per hour in 2012-13 under the plan recently approved by the parks commission.

While the $4-per-hour fee is somewhat understandable considering this year’s budget woes, where did the $14 per hour in 2012-13 come from?

How does the parks commission know what the budget will look like next year, or the year after that, and the year after that?

AYSO and Little League officials have said the fees would cripple their organizations, with Little League Commissioner Dave Ritchie saying, “It will put us out of business.”

Little League and AYSO aren’t going anywhere, regardless of fees, but they might have to start passing off costs to kids’ families, which would likely lead some families to stop letting their kids play.

The parks commission’s solution, at this stage, looks a lot like a “quick fix” plan, and the City Council rightly doesn’t sound too eager to acquiesce.

“I don’t know how [the commission] got there,” said Councilman Bob Yousefian, who called for a city report on the matter in August.

The council, parks commission and leaders with the youth organizations need to get together as a group and work on an alternative. According to council members and youth officials, they heard little about the fee structure until it was approved, which is unacceptable.

Any decision of this magnitude needs to go through the proper channels — especially the people who will be most affected by the move — before it is approved.

Ritchie and Doug Wallis, assistant regional commissioner for AYSO, pleaded their case to the City Council on Tuesday.

In August, when the matter will be revisited, they might want to ask some young soccer and baseball players and their parents if they’d like to speak as well.

Budget cuts are never easy, but a decision to essentially charge children interest for taking the field is one that should never be made so easily, especially when they’re paying a variable rate that isn’t in their favor.

Let’s start brainstorming to do whatever we can to prevent youth sports groups from going into foreclosure.


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