The Village Board unanimously approved the Parks and Recreation's three year budgeting plan Tuesday night to slowly minimize the amount of taxpayer dollars used to maintain baseball fields.
There are currently 12 adult teams paying to use the fields during the baseball/softball season, however, over 50 percent of the cost to use the fields is subsidized by taxpayer dollars.
After working closely with the local baseball teams, the Parks and Recreation Department has devised a three-year plan to minimize the amount of tax dollars that are used for field preparation.
The village subsidizes more than 50 percent of the cost of operation with taxpayer dollars. Since 2004, the number of annual baseball field uses has doubled to 815 in 2011. The surge of users is also reflected in the field preparation costs, a number that also doubled to nearly $25,000 this year.
“During budget time we have to make up for lost revenue, and we can do that because the numbers aren’t huge,” said Melissa Weiss, assistant to the village administrator. “But this baseball program is subsidized by the taxpayers and not all the taxpayers are baseball players.”
That’s why the Parks and Recreation Board is recommending a three-year gradual field fee increase to the Village Board.
After multiple discussions with the various baseball teams in Sussex, staff decided a gradual increase was fair considering budgeting issues within certain teams. If teams agree to at least 150 field rentals during the season, they only have to pay $5 each time they play. Starting in 2013, that will rise to $7.50, and in 2014, the teams will have to pay $10 per rental.
“This is an accommodation, not a negotiation,” said Tim Dietrich, a board member. “We’re allowing them time to get their budgets in order, and three years from now it’ll be more expensive.”
However, the village will have to wait for any sort of extra revenue. Because this new plan no longer requires teams to pay for field preparation for practices, the village is predicting an $1,800 loss in revenue in 2012. In fact, 2014 will be the first year the new program will produce any extra dollars from the teams.
“A predicted loss of $1,800 is not going to break our budget,” explained Weiss. “Staff’s view is that we’re seeing where we want to go in an incremental approach.”
The Parks and Recreation’s recommendation will be reviewed by the Village Board during tonight’s meeting.