One of the first defeats for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s new administration came Monday when the county legislature agreed unanimously to waive park fees for nonprofit Little Leagues, senior softball and other community based groups.
Curran had proposed charging thousands of dollars to the groups that had played on county ballfields for free for years, hoping to raise money for a county has been teetering in and out of fiscal crisis for decades.
Some of those charges were eye-popping, according to a spread sheet given to legislators by the Curran administration last week.
The administration contended it had waived $95,200 in fees for senior softball players last year, $27,000 for the Hewlett Little League, $16,000 for the Seaford Little League — for a total of about $264,000 in waived fees for all groups, most of which played during the day on ballfields in a small county park.
Seaford’s $16,000 bill spurred Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Wantagh) to propose the legislation that overruled Curran’s plan.
Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) is expected to refer to the legislative action in his rebuttal to Curran’s State of the County speech Wednesday night.
Curran’s administration also had warned legislators that their move would eliminate $392,000 in fees that teams were already paying to the county, including $51,150 from East Meadow Soccer and $35,700 from the Massapequa Soccer Club.
But it was unclear Wednesday whether those organizations are now exempt from fees or will continue to pay. A Curran spokesman could not immediately provide an answer Wednesday afternoon.
Travel teams and organizations that have paid professional staff are not covered by the waiver, according to legislators and legislative staff. Teams that use night lights or play at Mitchel Park, Eisenhower Park and Cantiague Park fields also probably still have to pay, they said.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said lawmakers wanted to protect the Little Leagues, seniors and charity teams that are run by unpaid volunteers and play in the smaller neighborhood county parks.
Those groups provide a community function, Abrahams said. “They keep their prices low. The cost to the parent is $75 or less. They are not swimming in cash.”
Abrahams added, “A lot of people rely on the taxes they pay to take care of the cost of government. They should be able to do that without being charged a second time.”
Rhoads said, “The idea is if people are giving their time to provide these programs for your youths and seniors, we should not be looking to make money off them.”
Rhoads said the waived fees represent a fraction of the county’s near $3 billion budget. “It’s the equivalent of saving a penny out of a hundred dollar bill. But to these groups it means life or death for their programs.”