Our View: Primary concern

Posted: December 7, 2012

Seeking to recover more of the costs associated with programs and, at the same time, relieve city taxpayers of some of the burden for capital improvements, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and, later, City Council gave initial endorsements to a new fee schedule for groups using Winchester’s recreation facilities.

Though the preferred approach, chosen from among four options, incrementally raises fees over a three-year period — rather than requiring the user groups to absorb the full brunt of the increase next summer — neither vote was unanimous. The reason, at least on council, where John Willingham and Ben Weber withheld their support: concern as to whether these groups can withstand such a jump in fees.

Though we agree in principle with City Hall’s intent, particularly given Winchester’s $96 per capita outlay for recreational programs liberally enjoyed by non-residents, we expressed similar concerns — at least initially — about the user groups’ ability to absorb that rather steep hike in fees. An example: In 2011, Winchester Baseball paid the city $6,000 for use of its facilities; in 2015, that figure will jump to $30,636, even with an estimated 25 percent discount for residential participation factored in.

Through use of a web site — GuideStar.org — that conveniently charts the IRS histories of respective nonprofits, such bottom-line information is readily obtained. The Star has examined the “financials” of three representative park user groups — Winchester Baseball, Winchester Swim Team, and Blue Ridge Youth Soccer. The results of our search offer, at the very least, some needed perspective.

For example, Blue Ridge Youth Soccer, whose last accessible filing was for 2010, carried a fund balance (accrued net assets) of $250,313 at the end of that year. For 2010 alone, the league recorded $273,165 in revenue and $262,306 in total expenses for a profit margin of $10,859.

The swim team, whose costs (largely for pool use) stand to increase from $28,611 in 2011 to $49,596 in 2015, boasted a more modest fund balance of $75,463. In 2011, it realized $177,353 in revenue and had expenses totaling $136, 631 for a profit margin of $40,722.

Finally, Winchester Baseball, in 2011 (when the Cal Ripken 10&Under World Series was held in Winchester), amassed $185,600 in revenue and spent $139,397 for a net profit of $46,203. Its fund balance, through 2011, stood at $232,442.

So, given just this cursory review, can these groups withstand a fee increase? You be the judge, or, better yet, go to GuideStar.org yourselves.

On Saturday: The curious case of Winchester Baseball.