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Votes

New Hourly Fees for Youth Ballfields?

With Fairfax County trying to reduce its tax rate by a couple cents and shift some of the burden for funding the county from the backs of the homeowners, County Executive Anthony Griffin is proposing some new fees in the proposed FY 2004 budget.

One of them would impose hourly fees for youth and adult sports leagues' use of county fields for practice and games. And with some 30,000 or so children in the local area involved in Chantilly Youth Association (CYA) or Southwest Youth Association (SYA) sports, the monetary hit could put a serious crimp in these organizations' finances.

The Board of Supervisors will eventually have to vote on this and other parts of the budgets, and Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), for one, doesn't like it. "I think it stinks, and I don't see any way that it's going to get adopted," he said. "Other than the fact that it raises $3 million, it has no socially redeeming value."

He said the problem with this proposal is that the youth clubs are already maintaining all the fields, and the proceeds from the fees would go into the General Fund and not a field-maintenance fund. Added Frey: "I don't sense that the Board will support it."

While noting that this fee, alone, would not be enough to offset a tax-rate increase — since a penny on the tax rate equals $13 million in revenue, and the $3 million raised from field fees wouldn't even represent 25 percent of a penny — he said that, as part of a fee package, it could be effective.

And realistically, he said, the county has to find its needed revenue somewhere so, "If it comes down to this vs., for example, cutting home health-care, who knows?"

The county is clearly in a monetary bind. Its sales-tax revenue is down, as well as interest on its investments. And almost 60 percent of its budget funding — up from about 51 percent, four years ago — comes from property taxes. That's why Griffin is looking for new sources of cash.

David Lacey, Sully representative on the Fairfax County Athletic Council, noted that the fee would also apply to adult sports leagues and said the Council has created a subcommittee to look into the user-fee issue. "Allegedly, it's to be used for maintenance and development [of new fields]," he said. "We also have to consider how much the fields would deteriorate if this extra revenue doesn't come in."

Gary Flather, SYA president, is still undecided on the issue, until he learns more about it. But he has a definite opinion on how he'd like to see the revenue spent.

"I think it's inevitable that we'd have to pay [for field use]," he said. "But if it goes into the General Fund, instead of toward field maintenance, then I'd be adamantly opposed to it — that's a no-brainer."