The Columbia County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved an increase in fees for the next five years for the recreation department's youth sports programs.
The increase, which goes into effect July 1, includes a new uniform fee that will gradually increase during the five-year period. In addition, registration fees will go up in the fourth year, 2014, from $60 to $65.
Barry Smith, the director of the county Community and Leisure Services, had said prior to the board's approval that the increase is simply an attempt to "keep expenses in line with revenue."
"The price of everything goes up -- insurance, the price of goods," said Smith, who noted that this would be the first fee increase in four to five years. "I think we need to look at recreation sports as a business. Look at it as a situation where you have to charge the consumer for the use of materials. Otherwise, we'd be going in the hole."
Participants will pay a new uniform fee this fiscal year of $25 for football, $10 for baseball and softball, and $5 for cheerleading, soccer and basketball.
The uniform fee will increase gradually for all sports except football, ending the five-year period in 2015 at $15.
Charlie Beale, the manager of the recreation department, said participants will be able to keep their uniforms now that they are paying the additional fee. That only goes for the uniform itself, he added, not for equipment such as football pads and helmets.
This past fiscal year, the recreation department incurred costs of more than $540,000. With a 3 percent yearly increase factored in, that number grows to about $625,000 by 2015.
Without the fee increase, Smith estimated a yearly revenue in 2015 of about $275,000. With the increase, that estimate goes up to about $375,000.
There are many hidden costs in keeping the recreation department's facilities nice for games, Beale said.
"People come out here and everything's ready to go, the field's ready," he said. "As one of our maintenance guys said, they don't see it afterwards, the next morning. ... Then, people come out the day after, and everything looks good again."
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