Solebury Township Parks & Recreation Committee Chair Kevin Campbell on Friday sent an angry letter to Supervisor Helen Tai over a decision last week by the Board of Supervisors to
scrap a cost-sharing agreement with New Hope.
New Hope residents may have to pay $130 more annually to use Solebury Township Park & Recreation facilities starting in February 2018 unless borough council returns to the negotiating table to discuss fixing what Solebury Supervisors consider a lopsided financial burden.
In his letter, Campbell lambasted Tai for failing to consult Solebury’s Park & Rec advisory committee, which he chairs. He also criticized what he views as the potential fallout from increased usage fees on New Hope children.
“I think the decision to rescind the agreement on 11/9/17 was done prematurely and without BOS board members having adequate information to make an educated decision,” Campbell said in his letter.
“I estimate the sports parks cost Solebury $85,000 annually,” continued Campbell. “Which then reduces your calculations of Solebury’s sports park share to $72,000, and NH to $13,000 which is a realistic cost to have the new hope kids participate in our programs. I believe balance of the non sports park portion of the P&R annual budget is the responsibility of Solebury Township, not NH.”
Solebury officials say they’re offering New Hope a new agreement that increases the borough’s contribution from $1,500 to $32,000, with a deadline of Jan. 31.
“The Board of Supervisors rescinded the 2006 agreement with New Hope because it was not in the best interest of our residents,” Tai responded late Friday. “We have offered New Hope a more equitable agreement and await their response. I am still hopeful that New Hope Borough Council will decide to pay their fair share across all four shared services. If they choose not to, then the Board will need to decide next steps, and I will certainly take under consideration the input of the P&R committee, as well as all Solebury residents.”
Campbell tangled with Tai and other Solebury Supervisors in May over their handling of a county grant.
Campbell’s letter, verbatim:
I am sending this email to you as you appear to be the BOS point person on the New Hope (NH) Solebury Shared Services issue. I am copying the remaining Board members and Parks &Recreation (P&R) advisory committee to keep all persons involved and should be involved in this decision making process up to speed on my findings for the P&R shared services portion of this issue.
Let me start by saying that the P&R advisory committee is disappointed that the BOS did not include us or seek our advice in any way as to the P&R portion of the shared services issue. We could have been a valuable asset in researching details in order to provide all the necessary information and make recommendations prior to bringing this to NH. This is the purpose of the P&R advisory committee.
I am disappointed at the tone the Solebury Township (ST) Supervisors have taken in regards to the P&R portion of this issue. It appears that the Board of Supervisors (BOS) took a very aggressive approach to the P&R portion and a more subtle, almost non existent approach to other services which makes me suspicious as to the nature of this adventure by the BOS.
When it comes down to it this issue is about the children. We need to be sensitive how we are presenting this to them. Someone will have to explain to the young children why they can’t play here with their school mates and now have to go elsewhere to play. Unfortunately the parents will have to explain it and it will go something like this in many NH homes “But why can’t we play in Solebury anymore Mom we did last year? Well Tommy we can’t afford to play there anymore because the people that run Solebury want to charge us an extra $130 for you and your brother and sister for each sport that you play. Thats $390 dollars more and we can’t afford it. Well thats not fair Mom, all the other kids from my class play there. Sorry Tommy but we will have to go somewhere else that cares about the kids.”
I agree that NH should be paying more into P&R to help defer the costs associated with some of our programs. And maybe it is the parents of the participants that should pay a small fee to play here. But we have to keep in mind that they already are paying registration fees around $200 per participant/ per sport/ per season depending on the sport. And that the registration fees everyone pays helps to cover a portion of the costs to maintain the fields that they use so they are already directly contributing something to the P&R programs. Baseball and soccer both pay Solebury Township $6,000 each year for the use of the fields. Thats $120,000 over the course of the last ten years. Football and Lacrosse have also paid fees to ST over the years. That money comes direct from the registration fees we ALL pay. So NH parents are already paying directly to help with the costs of the fields.
I think the decision to rescind the agreement on 11/9/17 was done prematurely and without BOS board members having adequate information to make an educated decision.
By rescinding the agreement we just threw away $1,500 for 2018. We rescinded an agreement with no thoughts on how this affects the NH families that have been a part of our programs for years. We rescinded an intergovernmental P&R agreement without the current BOS chair and BOS P&R liaison, Kevin Morrisey, present at the 11/09/17 meeting to provide any input on behalf of the P&R committee. The lack of his presence completely cut out any potential for the P&R Advisory Committee input into the final decision. Once again I am suspicious as to why?
We have the potential now to lose 10 – 12% of our participants in our programs. We already have a declining number of kids in our programs due to the decreasing number of school aged kids in our townships. This is a fact you personally like to bring up any time sports is brought up in the BOS meetings. The programs can’t afford to lose more kids due to this issue or the programs will suffer. (Hence my suspicion as to this adventure the BOS has undertaken. Maybe it is the intent of the ST BOS to slowly dissolve the the sports programs?). We must also consider that if we lose enough kids and the individual programs can’t cover their costs anymore they will have to raise their fees to the remaining Solebury participants to cover those costs. So how did this help Solebury taxpayers? It doesn’t. Once again the working families will get charged more.
Many kids play multiple sports. If a NH family with one child participates in three activities it will be an additional $390 per year. I know quite a few NH families that have 2-3 kids that play in more than one sport annually. Some families could be looking at an additional $500 to $1,000 a year ON TOP OF the original $200 registration that already pay for EACH sport. Do the math. This would be a large burden on NH working families. Lets keep in mind that this directly affects our friends and neighbors. Not the NH Borough Supervisors. Why can’t we wait until 2018 as they requested? Will Solebury go broke?
Even if all of the kids leave. The $32,000 in costs do not go away. Our P&R budget will stay the same. Unless the BOS uses the declining numbers as an excuse to start to close programs and fields.
You based your calculations on a P&R budget of $140,000. Just so the other voting BOS members understand that is the ENTIRE P&R budget to cover the costs of ALL of our parks. Since the conversation has been solely about our sports parks then only the budgets of those parks should be calculated. I have reviewed our $140,000 annual P&R budget and separated out the sports parks, (Laurel, Canal & Pat Livezy) and their budget total is only $73,000. The remaining parks budget is $29,000 and I assume the remaining $38,000 is administration costs. I added 30% ($12,000) of the overall administration costs and I estimate the sports parks cost Solebury $85,000 annually. Which then reduces your calculations of Soleburys sports park share to $72,000 and NH to $13,000 which is a realistic cost to have the new hope kids participate in our programs. I believe balance of the non sports park portion of the P&R annual budget is the responsibility of Solebury Township not NH.
The $32,000 you are looking to recoup from NH is less than one half of a percent of Solebury’s annual budget of $7,400,000. The amount of money we are talking about is peanuts compared to $7.4M.
And then I read in the Herald today that you are blaming the Ambulance tax increase as a reason to push the issue. Really? The BOS sold this to our residents as ONLY $44 per average household. Now its a “large increase in ambulance costs”. We have $3,000,000 in our general fund that could easily prevent any tax increase for additional ambulance service. But hey. Lets blame the kids and use them as an excuse.
– At the next BOS meeting 11/21/17 cancel the rescinding of the agreement and meet with NH in early 2018 and resolve this issue amicably.
– Engage the Solebury Township P&R committee to assist in the resolution of this issue.
– Do not charge the NH families a surcharge of $130 per participant!!!
– Hold off on any additional charges to NH participant registrations until after the spring sports. Institute charges if any in the fall so ALL affected groups have time to work things out.
– Suggest that NH borough start at $6,000ish for 2018 and works up on a graduated basis to a mutually agreed final number. Or start at $13,000 and review it annually or biannually.
– If families have to pay individually I suggest they start at $25 per participant with a cap of $75 per family annually, or something to this effect.
– All non solebury/non NH participants should be charged $25 or $50 regardless of this agreement.
I think you can tell by this email that I am upset. Why? Because its all completely unnecessary. Im sorry but in the end the only losers here are the children of New Hope and Solebury. They just want to play with their friends and classmates and the Solebury Township Board of Supervisors are now engaging in a process to end that.
Solebury Little League Baseball & Softball Board Member
Solebury Parks & Recreation Committee Chair