The Smithfield Town Council is considering eliminating fees in-town residents have to pay for their children to participate in youth sports in Smithfield. Fees out-of-town residents pay would not change.
Town Councilman Perry Harris is behind the idea. He requested the item be added to the August agenda for discussion. The board voted 4-to-2 to add it to the agenda at the last minute with Councilman John Dunn and Mayor Pro Tem Emery Ashley voting against adding the item for consideration.
During discussions, Councilman 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 there were both pros and cons with Harris’ proposal. If implemented, Johnson believes more in-town residents would sign up for sports programs but at the same time it may hurt out-of-town signups. Johnson said some out-of-town residents may sign up their children to play in rec leagues in other towns due to the cost difference. “There would be a larger discrepancy in the costs.”
Councilman Marlon Lee thought Harris’ proposal was an excellent idea. He said many children in East Smithfield could 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.”
Councilman John Dunn asked Johnson when would be the best time to implement the no-fees programs. The parks and rec director recommended this Fall before signup begins for youth basketball.
Mayor Andy Moore said the merits of the proposal were good but pointed out the estimated cost of $9,950 to eliminate the fees was not in the current 2017-18 budget. Mayor Pro Tem Emery Ashley agreed saying this wasn’t an emergency situation.
The board voted to postpone discussions until their September 5th meeting at which time Johnson will present a complete study on eliminating in-town youth sports fees.
If approved, there would be no charge for in-town children participating in Youth Team Sports including T-Ball, Baseball (9-18), Girls Softball, Coach Pitch, Soccer, Volleyball, Football or Basketball. Kinder sports programs including cheerleading would also be free, saving parents from $20 to $40 per sport.
Out of town residents would continue to pay their standard rates, which are currently double the costs in-town residents pay. Costs would continue at their present rate of $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 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.