Editor’s note: the following is a letter sent to Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education and administration. An earlier version appeared as a comment to a story here, but the author asked that the original comment be removed and replaced with this letter.
Let me preface this with these comments do not directly reflect the opinions of the URA Board of Directors or Organization as a whole.
As the Board considers what to charge outside groups to utilize fields/facilities, I urge you to take the following facts into consideration:
1. Consider the cost of facilities and fields not being used -this cost would be much greater for the district than those costs associated with them being used. The School Board needs to take a long hard look at reports of growing obesity rates and realize associations like URA are a huge win for them and their taxpaying constituents. This is a serious and real consequence to burdening taxpayers with even more costs.
2. Consider URA is the UNIONVILLE Recreation Association and the program participants are those of TAXPAYING families. In a time where we routinely are changing policies to focus on wellness, I think the district should be applauding our efforts to maintain these always growing programs instead of not thinking big picture and treating all “outside” activities as outsiders. URA has always considered their relationship as a partnership and not that of an “outside organization.” We are not only a feeder program for the district Athletics, we are also a feeder program for future leaders.
3. Consider URA regularly funds projects the schools do not have the funds for, for example most recently the $8000 Middle School score board as well as contributed to the High School scoreboard a few years back. In addition, URA routinely maintains the fields we use, including supplying dirt for the infields utilized at the schools.
4. Consider the URA basketball program currently pays overtime fees for Middle School usage. The elementary school routinely changes the custodial schedules to accommodate the basketball program in the winter, otherwise we would pay overtime there as well – and we have even offered to do so so the program would not impact staffing during weeknights.
5. Consider the exponential cost the school would incur should there not be a program such as URA that opens its doors to all kids from Kindergarten through 12th grade – parents surely would be clamoring for some sort of intramural sports program, something the school definitely does not want to take on.
6. Consider the Unionville Recreation Association does not get rights to use any fields or facilities outside of the district without paying fees, and even then other neighboring districts turn us away yet UCFSD accommodates all. URA has begun to turn kids away from some of our programs simply because we have nowhere to put them or have a proper venue to play their games.
7. Lastly, consider that if you start charging fees, you are then declaring yourself a service provider. Expectations and scrutiny around upkeep, playability, safety and overall conditions will then increase, thereby applying more pressure on the grounds crews and the Service provider to maintain higher standards – most likely increasing costs even further, and definitely increasing chatter from the community.
If you want to charge programs for use, start by levying fees to those that have participants who do not pay school taxes to UCFSD. In essence, fees charged to taxpaying families that would now incur this cost, it’s as if you are raising their taxes but without the politics surrounding it. What’s next? Charging the band members for playing the flute in the new auditorium? Charging drivers for parking spots? Charging for drinking fountain use or maybe just pay toilets in the schools?
With my involvement in URA over the past decade, I completely understand the rising costs associated with maintaining fields and facilities. I also understand the good that a program like URA does as a partner to the school district. By providing a recreational outlet to the average athlete, we are supporting the mission of the school and the requirements of the community to provide an outlet that keeps our kids from playing video games or even worse, being involved in destructive behaviors. There will come a time when the continued costs levied for “usage” will put a price burden of families they can no longer afford, and programs will start to fade away, leaving the only activities available to those that can join exclusive clubs or afford the high price tag associated with recreational athletics. With the economy the way it is today, organizations such as URA are already over-burdened with scholarship requests from families that just cannot pay the entry fees due to unemployment or other pressing financial difficulties.
I urge you to reconsider charging your Community partner!