Encinitas Council delays decision on parks and recreation fee increases
Proposal, which will be reconsidered at the June 28 meeting, currently includes field rental fees for youth sports teams
A proposal that includes charging some youth sports teams field rental fees for the first time in the city’s history needs more work and will be reconsidered late next month, the Encinitas City Council unanimously decided Wednesday, May 24.
Council members said they wanted to see a more gradual, phased-in approach to the plan after hearing from San Dieguito Youth Softball League board member Tiana Hejduk. She said the proposed field rental fees could cost her all-volunteer organization an estimated $50,000 a year.
“I’m having trouble seeing how we go from zero to $50,000 a year,” Councilmember Allison Blackwell said as she reviewed the proposed field rental fees.
Councilmember Joy Lyndes said she wanted the city to “step a bit more gingerly” and be “a little more slow-moving” in implementing the fees, while Councilmember Kellie Hinze said she wanted to give the youth sports groups more time to fundraise before they were hit with fee increases.
A revised version of the entire parks and recreation fee proposal now is scheduled to go before the council at its 6 p.m. meeting June 28.
Under the current proposal, many city parks and recreation fees would increase. Most of the changes would go into effect July 1, but the athletic field rental fees wouldn’t begin until after Jan. 1, 2024, department director Travis M. Karlen told the council.
The proposed fee hikes, which were recommended by a city-hired consultant and can be viewed at https://encinitas.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2967&meta_id=154070, include new prices for everything from recreation center room rentals to special event permits.
The area that’s drawn the most public attention are the proposed field rental fee changes, particularly the ones for “non-competitive” youth sports teams — programs without paid coaches where any child can participate as long as they are of a certain age. Encinitas youth organizations that offer such programs, including the softball league, currently don’t pay field rental fees as long as they don’t use the field lights.
Under the new proposal, those groups with 70 percent or more of their members living in Encinitas would pay a $5-an-hour, per-field use fee, plus a $5 per-person fee for the non-resident players in their organizations. Groups who don’t meet the 70 percent standard would pay $10 hour, plus the $5 per-person, non-resident fee.
While the $5-per-field fee and the $5 per-person fee for non-residents seems small, it adds up when an organization uses multiple fields on many days in a year, Hejduk said. Her organization currently charges its players $180 a season to participate and that money pays for equipment, uniforms and umpire fees. The coaches and the league’s management are unpaid, she said. Adding $50,000 in new city fees will require her organization to do a great deal of fundraising and it might mean that the league would be unable to afford to book as much field time as it now does, she said.
“It kind of breaks my heart that we’re even talking about this,” Hejduk said.
Karlen told the council the city’s parks and recreation fees haven’t increased in years. The last library fee increase was 2008, fees to use the city’s Community and Senior Center last changed in 2002, and many other Parks and Recreation Department fees haven’t changed since 1998, he said.
He and City Manager Pamela Antil said the city’s recreation fees were starkly different than other area cities.
“It is highly unusual to not have any fees at all for people to use the fields,” Antil said.
Karlen showed the council a chart containing field rental fees for other area cities. His chart indicated that:
- San Dieguito Union High School District charges $40 to $48 an hour plus a custodial fee to rent unlighted fields;
- The city of Vista doesn’t charge recreational, non-competitive youth sports teams to use its fields if more than 90 percent of the players are city residents and the lights are not used;
- Escondido charges $5 an hour if more than 70 percent of the youth players are city residents, plus a $5 per-player fee for team’s non-resident players;
- Carlsbad doesn’t charge a field rental if more than 70 percent of the youth players are city residents and the lights are not used, but it does charge a $5 per-player fee for the non-resident players;
- Poway charges $9 to $15 a hour for youth teams to rent the fields, but doesn’t charge a non-resident fee as long as more than 70 percent of the players are city residents.
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