I testified last night at the Board of Supervisors budget hearing. My focus was the proposed Park Authority budget cuts. I addressed two issues.
First is the need not to cut upkeep and maintenance of high school athletic fields – especially baseball fields. The schools have indicated to members of the Baseball Council that these cuts will require them to exclude baseball from the high school baseball fields. Since the high schools have a majority of the 90 foot diamonds in Fairfax, this action would have a devastating impact on the baseball in Northern Virginia. Total cost for the maintenance of these high school baseball fields is a little over $100,000 a year.
The second issue I addressed was the lighting of current courts and fields. There are two parts of this issue. First, the proposed budget would cut all funding for lights at the County’s basketball and tennis courts. These courts are used by a wide variety of people from all socio-economic backgrounds. Teenagers and adults can be seen playing basketball and tennis every evening in the summer. These facilities provide an important opportunity for kids to play games rather than look for trouble to get into.
The other part of this issue is the lighting of grass fields for practices. There are 55 baseball diamonds in the County that have lights. However, current Park Authority Policy does not allow them to be used for practice. The Athletic Council has been working to change this. The Park Authority has dragged its feet for several years. The current sticking point is that it costs money to light these fields (and about 10 rectangular fields which have lights but aren’t currently used for practices) and that they don’t have it.
Think about the consequences here. Lighting these fields for practices will make about 1,000 hours of practice time available every week at its peak.
The total cost for lighting these fields would be between $85,000 and $100,000.
So where do you get $100,000 in this budget? One place to look is the fitness center at the government center. The Park Authority wanted to eliminate funding for the center. However, the county executive restored the funding from a different part of the budget. The cost of the center? A little over $106,000.
The fitness center at the government center is a nice amenity for the employees. I wish we could keep it open along with all of the other programs. But, in my opinion, when you balance $106,000 for some of the county employees or $100,000 that would let thousands upon thousands of citizens play tennis, basketball, baseball, soccer, football, lacrosse, etc. under the lights – I think we should go with the citizens.