By Paul Myers
exeter – The City of Exeter’s city manager Randy Groom and community development director Felix Ortiz met with the Exeter Unified School District’s (EUSD) superintendent Tim Hire and trustee Ray Strable to discuss the impact of the District’s facility fees on adult basketball.
Last month Ortiz said the District would start to impose a $65 facility fee which has been traditionally waived in the spirit of it being a benefit to the community. Ortiz said as well that the fees would in particular affect the City’s adult basketball league and would increase the City’s cost by $17,160 per season. Already the City loses between $600 and $1,500 per season on adult basketball because of the cost for referees and score keepers. Also the current adult league seasons are a little over half way done and they have had to extend it out by a couple of weeks because they no longer have Sunday’s to play games.
According to Groom, the District’s reasoning boiled down to philosophy. Simply put, they do not like that so many players in the City’s adult basketball league come from out of town. And the District does not want to dedicate resources to a league that is not wholly made up of Exeter area residents. Groom relayed to the Exeter City Council during their April 11 meeting, there are between 15 and 18 teams in the adult basketball league and about four to six teams do not have Exeter residents on them.
But in an interview with the Sun-Gazette, Hire said that there is the added cost of custodial crews and wear and tear to the facilities. According to Hire, Sunday games can last up to nine hours and the District must pay custodians for at least two hours of work at a pay rate of time and a half because it is on a Sunday. As a result Hire says that the District is in the process of phasing out Sunday sporting events all together.
“We are not going to have regularly scheduled sports on our facilities on Sundays…our facilities need a rest,” Hire stated.
Currently the City presumes they are operating under a 1981 contract signed between the District and the City, which lends free use of each entity’s facilities to one another. Specifically the agreement states that, “The parties agree that no fees or charges shall be imposed upon the other parties for the general use of said facilities except as specifically provided in this agreement.” The contract has been automatically renewed every three years, and can be terminated by either the District or the City with a 90 day notice.
However, Hire argues that the agreement between the City and District no longer exists since the District that entered into the contract dissolved when the Exeter Union High School district and the Exeter Union School District merged in 2013. And without a contract, the District is simply enforcing their new facilities fees, when they hadn’t before.
According to Hire, after the merger, the district was issued a new identification designation by the State. But he was unsure how many other contracts were explicitly changed beyond identification after the districts unified.
In order to pay for the facilities fees imposed by the District and relieve their concern over out of town players, Groom said that they can impose a surcharge on out-of-area players. Groom said that Exeter residents have already paid for the service and facility through their property taxes, out of town players should pay a surcharge because they have not. Groom said as well that the surcharge would not likely make up the difference. He added that the Council can also just restrict the access to residents in the Exeter area only. If only Exeter residents participate, the league will be considerably smaller, teams would not need to play on Sundays and games would not go so late into the evening. And while that may alleviate a scheduling burden it does not mean that the City would not have to pay a facilities fee. Hire said that common ground is yet to be broached on facility fees, and the District has not charged the city for the current fees the District has in place.
“We have not charged anything to date. We have not charged them any fees for their programs, including the adult basketball league,” Hire said.
While the City Council did not take formal action over the adult basketball league program, some council members weighed in on what they should do next.
“I think we should just restrict it to Exeter residents. I don’t think we are going to get too many people [if they have to pay extra],” council member Gordon Gerdes stated.
Council member Jeremy Petty suggested that the service is not essential and could be eliminated.
“Maybe it would be better if we got rid of the service all together,” Petty said. “I feel that the adult basketball league is more so leisure.”