The Columbia County Recreation Department may soon ask parents for a voluntary $5 activity fee.
The proposed activity fee will be taken before the Columbia County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday for approval.
The Columbia County Recreation Advisory Board hopes to eliminate some of the annual fund-raisers it conducts and use the activity fee to supplement its budget.
"What we have done in the past is that we would go out and throughout the year we would do a series of fund-raisers to generate money for our budget," said Recreation Advisory Board Chairman Bobby Waters.
"We take no money from the county budget. We generate it through raffles, selling candy or things of that nature."
Waters said he began hearing complaints from many parents about the number of fund-raisers they are asked to participate in, whether it came from the advisory board, school organizations, or other sources.
"All the folks that participate in the recreation department, we ask them to be a part of our fund-raisers," Waters said.
"Well, several of the parents said, 'Why don't I just give you $10, because I end up buying the stuff anyway.' We thought that wasn't a bad idea," he said.
According to Waters, the advisory board places funds in an account to provide items to the recreation department that are not covered in the annual budget.
He estimates that in the past 10 years the advisory board contributed more than $200,000 in supplemental funds to the recreation department for items like pitching machines, sod and much more.
An average of 7,200 children participate in county recreation programs yearly. If all parents agree to pay the activity fee, the advisory board can generate around $36,000 for its annual budget.
In addition to other annual fund-raisers the advisory board conducts, like the Fourth of July Celebration and the Veteran's Day Memorial Barbecue, Waters said the activity fee should provide the advisory board with enough funds without asking parents to participate in other fund-raisers.
However, Waters is asking the board of commissioners to initially implement the activity fee on a trial basis just in case there isn't enough public support.
Waters said it is a cautious move, but he doesn't think it will be necessary.
"We did our polls - our basic survey - to 500 or 600 of our recreation parents," Waters said. "We asked them if they would rather do a fund-raiser or just pay a $5 fee and be done with it. Ninety percent responded they would rather pay the fee and be done with it."
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