The Smithfield Town Council has postponed discussions on eliminating fees they charge in-town residents for their children to play Youth Sports until next year.
Town Councilman Perry Harris first introduced the idea in August. Harris said he would like to see fees eliminated for in-town residents, which he believes would be an added perk for parents considering moving to Smithfield that parks and rec programs for their kids would be free of charge.
Parks and Recreation Director Gary Johnson said at the time there were both pros and cons with Harris’ proposal, which would cost about $9,950 per year to the Town.
Johnson was asked to present a study on the proposal this month but it was pulled from the Sept. 5th council agenda at the last minute.
Harris told WTSB News he requested the discussions be postponed until the Spring when the Town begins budget deliberations for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Harris said Mayor Andy Moore and Mayor Pro Tem Emery Ashley both expressed concerns the costs were not included in the current budget. Ashley also said during the August meeting approving the fee change wasn’t an emergency situation.
The Smithfield Recreation Advisory Committee met on August 10thand issued their opposition to eliminating the fees saying free play was a bad idea, and that “free” would imply the program is not good. They also expressed concerns non-resident participation would fall because they would still be charged.
Councilman Marlon Lee supports Harris’ proposal saying many East Smithfield residents can not afford the current fees. “$30 may not be much, but to some it means a lot.” Lee added that it would also keep children engaged. “Parks and recreation should not be about making money. In this case money should not be an obstacle.”
Current in-town parents pay between $20 and $40 per sport for Youth Team Sports including T-Ball, Baseball (9-18), Girls Softball, Coach Pitch, Soccer, Volleyball, Football or Basketball and Kinder sports programs.
Out of town residents pay double the cost of in-town residents pay. That includes $40 for kinder sports, $50 for cheerleading, $60 for T-Ball, $70 for baseball (9-18), girls softball, coach pitch, soccer and volleyball, and $80 per player for football and basketball.
Johnson said the fees currently charged to youth participants are actually less than the direct cost to parks and recreation after factoring all costs such as t-shirts and equipment.