Participants in Youth Tackle Football and Youth Basketball programs of the Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department will be paying higher fees starting in a year because of an agreement approved last week by the Oconee County Board of Education.
The approval was the final step in a process initiated by Oconee County Schools to recover maintenance costs from the Oconee County government for use by the county of athletic facilities at county schools.
The Joint Use Agreement, which allows both the schools and the county to charge the other for use of respective athletic facilities, replaces a 10-year agreement in which the schools and the county agreed not to charge each other for use of sports facilities.
Oconee County, which opposed the initiation of fees, has said it will not begin charging the schools for use of its facilities, and the Board of Education compromised by phasing in the charges to the county.
The agreement is short-term, extending for only three years, and it allows either party to change the fees it charges and to terminate the contract easily.
In other action at the Board of Education meeting last week, Brock Toole, chief operations officer for Oconee County Schools, reported that Malcom Bridge Road was scheduled to close on May 18 for construction of a roundabout at the bus and staff entrance to Malcom Bridge Middle School.
Saranna Charping, chief financial officer for the school system, told the Board that collection from the Education Local Option Sales Tax for March was down 10 percent from the same month a year earlier and that the average collection for the last 14 months is down just less than 2 percent.
Dallas LeDuff, director of student services for Oconee County Schools, presented a proposed replacement for the 2010 Joint Use Agreement between the school system and the county at the Board of Education work session on March 2.
|Screen Shot 5 11 2020 Meeting|
The key feature of proposal was a fee schedule that Oconee County Schools would begin to impose this year on the use of school facilities by the Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department.
In response to the Board reaction to the proposal, LeDuff revised the proposed agreement so that no fees will be charged this year, the county will get a 50 percent discount on the fees next year, and the final year will include a 40 percent discount.
The Board of Commissioners approved the revised agreement at its meeting on May 5. Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell stated that the county would not charge the schools for use of county facilities even though it was signing the agreement.
Lisa D. Davol, director of the Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department, told me in an email message last week that “Youth Tackle Football and Youth Basketball will be the most affected by the new agreement, followed by Youth Soccer.”
Only Youth Tackle Football will be affected in the coming year, Davol said, since the program crosses over two fiscal years with registration starting in April of 2021 and the season not ending until November of 2021.
The Youth Tackle Football fee for next year will increase by $10 from $195 to $205, Davol said.
Tackle Football uses the high school football stadiums for games only, according to Davol, and uses the Oconee County Middle School football field for practices and sometimes uses the Malcolm Bridge Middle School football field for practices.
Youth Basketball will not be affected until the second part of next year, Davol said.
Youth Basketball in the past has used school gyms at Colham Ferry Elementary, Dove Creek Elementary, High Shoals Elementary, Malcolm Bridge Elementary, Oconee County Middle School, Malcolm Bridge Middle School, and Oconee County High School, according to Davol.
Davol said she is “not sure what fees will be implemented by the parks for year 2 yet, depends on several factors, scheduling, number of registrations, etc.”
Youth Soccer also could be affected, but it only minimally uses fields at Oconee County Middle School in the spring if needed, she added.
School Use Of County Facilities
Davol stated that Oconee County Schools has been using Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department facilities for a number of programs.
The school system uses Oconee Veterans Park for “all Malcolm Bridge Middle School and Oconee County Middle School softball practices and games,” she said.
The schools also use softball fields at Oconee Veterans Park for a two-to-three day softball tournament.
The School system uses Herman C. Michael Park for high school slow pitch softball, according to Davol, and Oconee County Veterans Park and Heritage Park trails for occasional cross country practices.
Davol said Oconee County schools use meeting rooms at Oconee Veterans Park throughout the year and used 200 hours in 2019.
The schools also use Oconee Veterans Park and Herman C. Michael Park pavilion and park areas for FFA for a tree identification event, Davol said, and use Heritage Park for FFA/4H animal shows.
According to Davol, the schools also use Oconee Veterans Park Soccer Fields for a 7v7 booster club tournament, county parks for various school student picnics and end of the year field days, and has used Herman C. Michael Disc Golf course in the past for high school physical education classes.
The Board of Education tried to block the county from building roundabouts in front of the staff and bus entrance and parent entrance to Malcom Bridge Middle School by refusing to grant right of way for the project.
The county shifted the roundabout at the staff and bus entrance away from school property and is going forward with the construction, but it has abandoned plans for the roundabout at the parent entrance.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell announced at the Commission meeting on Tuesday that he hopes to schedule a special Town Hall meeting soon at one of the Malcom Bridge schools to talk with parents about their preferences for designs under consideration for that entrance.
The Board of Commissioners has said that a major part of its motivation for altering the design of the school entrances has been a desire to get sheriff deputies, who now direct traffic there, out of the roadways out of concern for the safety of the officers.
The Board of Education has said it wanted to allow the sheriff elected in November to decide the issue, but in two candidates forums in recent weeks both candidates said they would provide the deputies for the schools but would prefer a design that made that unnecessary.
Both the school system and the county rely on sales tax revenue, which is expected to be greatly reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Georgia Department of Revenue distributed March collections at the end of April.
For Oconee County, the March 2020 collections of Local Option Sales Tax, Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and Education Local Option Sales Tax all declined.
The taxes are similar but produce different revenue figures each month, and LOST dropped 9.0 percent, SPLOST dropped 9.8 percent, and ELOST dropped 10.0 percent.
Chief Financial Officer Charping told the Board that she is estimating that the Education Local Option Sales Tax will bring in just less than $40 million when it expires at the end of 2022.
The system borrowed $23.5 million against those tax revenues, received $5.6 million in state funding for capital projects, carried over $3 million from an earlier LOST, earned interest on money held, and transferred $1.2 million from the General Fund.
Total revenue as of the end of April, Charping reported, was just less than $51 million, including the bond revenue, and total project spending to date has been just less than $40 million.
The system has made $7.1 million in bond payments against a debt of $25.9 million, she reported, and has $4.8 million in reserve.
The May 11 meeting of the Board of Education was a virtual one that was live streamed via YouTube.
I captured the video and trimmed off the delay at the beginning of the meeting resulting from technical difficulties.
The trimmed video is below.
The Board passed the Intergovernmental Agreement and received Toole’s report without comment.
I think the BOC should allow Parks Department to charge the BOE for use of county park facilities since the BOE is going to cause costs for users of the Parks youth programs to pay more. This disadvantages county tax paying residents with children in these programs. If the BOE is made to pay for use of county park facilities, then the Parks Department would not have to raise fees for participants. What's fair for the goose is fair for the gander. Maybe someone on the BOE will then wake up and say "this is ridiculous, we are all in the same community". As voters, we should take note of which BOE members, we could replace with more reasonable people.
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