Solebury has never been known for being stingy, so why did the township’s board of supervisors at their Sept. 19 meeting float the idea of hiking fees for New Hope kids seeking to use their recreational fields?
After all, New Hope and Solebury have split the cost of athletic facilities since 2006. But now Solebury is saying it’s had enough not only with New Hope failing to pay its fair share, but also its leaders ducking discussions on the issue.
“I would like residents of both communities to continue to participate in the Solebury Park and Rec programs, but I would also like both municipalities to pitch in their fair share of the costs,” said Supervisor Helen Tai in a communication to residents. “Right now, Solebury taxpayers are paying about 25 times more than New Hope taxpayers.”
In fact, Solebury Township supervisors have been asking New Hope Borough Council to contribute more of its fair share since 2014, and New Hope has refused, Tai said. The township recently sent another formal invitation to New Hope council to meet and determine an equitable cost sharing agreement, but New Hope attempted to delay the meeting until next year.
Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, three hours after receiving a request for comment from the Free Press, New Hope Borough Council President Alison Kingsley agreed to discuss the issue with Solebury Board of Supervisors President Kevin Morrissey on Thursday.
“I hope this is the start of a series of thoughtful meetings to resolve the issue of expenses for shared services/assets between Solebury and New Hope,” Morrissey remarked.
Kingsley did not respond to a request for comment.
“Each year, Solebury taxpayers are paying approximately $15 per capita, while New Hope taxpayers are paying 59 cents per capita, and this does not include the cost of land acquisition or construction of fields and accompanying infrastructure such as parking lots and restrooms,” observed Tai. “Back in 2006, the two municipalities agreed that New Hope Boro would pay $1500/year to offset the cost of park and rec administration and also help pay for grant acquisition and matching. In exchange, their residents could participate in the Solebury programs for the same fee as Solebury residents.
“The amount was to be frozen at $1,500 from 2007-2011, and subject to increase thereafter,” continued Tai. “Given that 11 years have passed since the agreement was signed and that our costs have continued to increase, I believe we are long overdue to reset the amount. This year, Park & Rec administration & operations are projected to be about $188,000, of which $59,000 comes from program revenues; $127,500 paid for by Solebury Taxpayers $1,500 paid for by New Hope Taxpayers.
“As a representative of Solebury residents, I can no longer in good conscience ask our taxpayers to continue to subsidize this expense for New Hope.,” Tai added.
The Solebury supervisor proposed what she and the board consider a more equitable split.
“Looking forward to 2018, we are projecting net expenses of approximately $141,000,” Tai explained. “An equitable split would be about $12.50 per capita, or $109,000 for Solebury, and $32,000 for New Hope, which makes up 23% of the population and 18% of the participants in the field sports programs.”
Solebury Supervisors instructed Morrissey to contact Kingsley and reiterate their desire to meet. “If they refuse, then we will rescind the agreement and discuss alternative ways to recoup the losses,” Tai said in her communique.
Solebury Supervisor Mark Baum Baicker agreed.
“New Hope Borough Council is on the clock,” he said. “It’s up to them to decide if they want to support their kids the way we support Solebury’s kids by increasing their contribution to a more equitable level, or whether they’d prefer that the parents of the participating New Hope kids be burdened with significantly higher registration fees than they’re now paying.”