Youth league fees for non-city residents expected to increase

Published 3:16 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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Next Monday, City Council members are expected to vote on the city’s annual budget – a budget that has Beaufort County families wondering if their children will continue to participate in youth league sports. 

In Washington, city and non-city residents pay different amounts for their children to participate in youth league sports. City residents pay $25 per child, but non-city residents pay $30. In the proposed budget, non-city residents could pay as much as $70, more than double what they are used to shelling out. City resident fees will remain the same. 

Soccer, basketball, softball and baseball youth leagues are offered in Washington. 

The proposed budget shows that initially, the city planned to charge non-city residents $100 per child, “which is in line with other municipalities.” 

For context, the City of Greenville (est. population 89,233 as of 2022) does not list a participation fee for youth league sports; however, there is one for adult leagues. It’s $20 for city residents, but $30 for non-residents. 

City of Wilson (est. population 47,606 as of 2022) residents pay $35 in youth league registration fees, but non-residents pay $52. This is a standard rate for all sports Wilson offers – flag football, youth soccer (spring), Wilson City Little League Baseball, youth fast-pitch softball, youth volleyball, youth track and field, youth basketball, youth indoor soccer/futsal. 

Mayor Donald Sadler stated in the proposed budget that $100 for non-city residents could cause “a financial hardship on families with multiple children playing sports.” 

Beaufort County Deputy Public Works Director, West Overman, is a board member for Washington Youth Baseball League and a Washington resident. Knowing the league may lose current and potential players, because of an increase in fees, he said board members have already planned for what the team could look like with half of its players. 

Concern among baseball league parents varies, Overman said. Parents of one child do not see a $40 increase as a hindrance; however, families who have three children or more in league baseball and/or other sports, the increase is “very significant for them.” 

“It’s not just related to our league,” Overman continued, “they may have children who are playing baseball, soccer, other sports that are affected as well.” 

“We’ve had comments that if this goes through as planned, they will be looking to play elsewhere and the change would definitely decrease our numbers,” Overman said. 

According to Overman, Washington Youth Baseball League has 48 non-city resident players. The remaining 149 are city-residents. 

Overman said the baseball league has not surveyed non-city parents to see who would stay or leave if the increase is passed. 

He pointed out that if an increase is passed, it could have a direct, opposite effect of what the city is trying to achieve. Instead of the city having more funding, it could have less that previous years because families are moving to other municipalities’ sports programs. 

For the fall 2023-spring and winter 2024 seasons, City of Washington is estimated to serve 1,320 players with most coming from Beaufort County. City Manager Jonathan Russell stated in the proposed budget that 60% of participants in youth league sports are non-city residents while the remaining 40% are city residents. 

Russell explained that different rates for city and non-city residents is a common “cost sharing measure” many cities adopt. He further explained that city residents pay property taxes which is one of the largest funders of Parks and Recreation budgets. “If you’re a resident, you get a small break,” he said.  

On the other hand, Overman believes, “it’s like the out-of-county residents are the ones that are responsible for footing the bill for increased costs.”

“Our board feels that it is important to provide recreation opportunities to all residents of Beaufort County. We understand that the city is the owner of the facilities. We understand that the city is the one responsible for paying related bills, but by increasing this fee, it will likely have a direct impact on participation rates,” Overman said. He continued to say that it’s important to keep youth sports programs accessible, because they teach “positive life lessons.”

When parents are registering their children for sports programs, they select whether they are a city resident or a non-city resident.  This is on an honor system that could use more oversight, Russell said. In addition, sports leagues are the ones who collect fees from parents. 

“It varies. There’s not a hard and fast number on that,” Russell said in answering a question on if the Parks and Recreation Department knows how much money to expect in collected fees based on the number of participants. “After COVID things have been up and down. We were just looking for an equitable solution to offset some of the cost of operation for Parks and Recreation.” 

“We don’t really know,” he continued. 

Russell said the city wants to maintain great relationships with sports leagues and make sure the leagues are “successful.” Part of that includes offering “great facilities.”  

City fees go toward the upkeep and maintenance of city facilities. Utility fees at Susie-Gray McConnell Sports Complex and Bobby Andrews Recreation Center are a monthly average of $1,200 from April to October when they are used the most. City recreation facilities are used less often from November through March. Yearly, utility fees are $9,600. 

They also go toward paying salaries of part-time facility attendant fees. Attendants work an average of four hours a day, four days a week, four weeks a month for eight months at a rate of $12 per hour for a total of $6,144. 

Washington Parks and Recreation Department pays full-time staff fees – two full-time staff who work 12 months and one staff member who works six months plus additional time for tournaments for a total of $95,000. 

The Department pays for Turfus infield and turf conditioners ($6,000), paint ($4,000), fertilizer and chemicals ($12,000) and lime ($2,000). 

The City of Washington receives an annual $25,000 from Beaufort County’s budget which goes to Washington Parks and Recreation Department’s budget for sports programs. The county also pays three other municipalities’ Parks and Recreation Departments smaller amounts for sports programs. Bath, Belhaven and Chocowinity each receive $15,000. 

To register for youth league baseball this year, it will cost $65 in Bath, but $75 in Williamston, Washington Parks and Recreation Director Kristi Roberson shared with city council at their May 13 meeting. Neither Chocowinity, nor Belhaven returned Roberson’s calls for information before the meeting.