City fee increases finding few friends in youth sports

The sting of fee increases to help balance the City of Las Vegas fiscal 2015 budget is upsetting people involved with youth and adult sports.

Parks and Recreation fees are being phased in, but when fully implemented they will bring in about $4.5 million more per year, Deputy City Manager Scott Adams said Friday.

The city’s tentative budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, including a portion of the fees, is expected to be approved Tuesday at a 10 a.m. special City Council meeting.

The city expects to spend $498 million in fiscal 2015 and will need to dip into reserves for $9 million to balance the budget as required by Nevada law. Other efforts to close the gap include increasing fees charged by departments handling recreation, building and safety, business licensing and municipal courts.

But so far, it’s the sports increases that have stirred the pot.

Adams defended the fee increases in the Parks and Recreation Department saying the facilities are top-notch and charges for their use amount to increasing to the levels of nearby cities in the Southwest.

“We were renting out soccer fields for $3 an hour and charging nothing for lights,” he said.

Under the new schedule, youth soccer teams will pay a flat $70 per field, and starting Aug. 1 all sports groups will pay $10 per hour for lights.

The biggest single jump is the fixed-building concession permit for Community Leagues, which went up May 1 from $50 per allocation season to $1,000 per allocation season.

“For us, it’s a 600 percent increase. It’s insane, ” said Sally Cummerford, the Junior Olympic Director for Amateur Softball Association.

She said annual costs will go from $43,000 to $266,000 for the 70 softball teams in her organization.

“There’s no doubt in my mind the city is in financial trouble. I just don’t think this is the answer,” Cummerford said. “I’m not opposed to increases, I supported the last one in 2010. But there’s no way to come up with that kind of money.”

She said she hopes council members who approved the increases “didn’t realize the impact on children” and will reduce them.

Adams said the council already had directed managers to recover more money through field fees.

“They had a good thing for a long time,” he said of groups that paid the lower fees.

Adams said the city had been charging “ridiculously low rates for the quality of the fields.”

While Las Vegas is the first city in the region to raise fees, Adams predicted other local governments will follow suit.

Some fees were phased in during January and May, while others will rise in August.

The city wanted to keep fees for senior citizens’ activities in Parks and Recreation low while maintaining services, as Henderson did.

The city has calculated that in 2013 it recovered only 72 percent of its costs in the municipal sports unit and only 10 percent in the sports unit and parks maintenance.

Next January, tournaments, camps and other sporting events will see fees increase as much as $70 per hour, depending on the type of field.

But the impact of the increase will vary by activity and the number of participants.

The increase is calculated to be $352,191 annually for community league soccer, with an annual hit of $27 per participant in the Nevada Youth Soccer Association, which has a large number of players.

The much smaller Amateur Softball Association’s annual increase will be $223,250, or $208 a player — the largest increase dollar-wise for an individual player, according to the city’s numbers.

In other increases related to children, Kids Kamp went from $75 a child to $100 per child. City spokesman Jace Radke said that compares favorably with the YMCA, which charges $175 to $235. Springs Preserve charges $215, and Summerlin charges $200 to $250.

City Manager Betsy Fretwell said previously that without about $7 million in revenue enhancements, including medical transports by the Las Vegas Fire Department, and increases in fees for recreation, building and safety, business licensing and municipal courts, the city deficit would be about $15 million instead of $9 million.

A half-dozen fees in Building and Licensing bumped up $10 to $60.

Fees in Planning and Licensing are expected to increase but are pending council approval.

The last fee increase for Parks and Recreation sports was in June 2010, when various hikes were expected to raise $1.1 million a year.

“This is our attempt to be responsible, to maintain our assets, maintain our staffing levels,” said Lonny Zimmerman, who recently left his position as deputy director of the city’s leisure services department under fire for failing to properly supervise an employee who was paid more than $102,000 in overtime and callback pay over two years.

Contact Jane Ann Morrison at jmorrison@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0275.