Request for cut to ground fees refused by Council

Central Coast Council ignored a request for an across the board cut in ground fees when it made its decision on sporting refunds at its September 28 meeting.

Instead it will offer refunds only where groups have offered refunds to players despite sporting groups not charging their players for the costs of ground fees.

Sports Council Secretary-treasurer, Diane Dales, said most clubs raise funds from their canteen sales to pay the Council bill for ground fees.

Administrator Rik Hart went ahead with the staff recommendation to agree to a 50 per cent reduction in ground fees only where associations and clubs offered refunds to their players.

“Local sporting clubs, associations and community groups are encouraged to contact their Council Facility Manager, and we will work with each sporting group on a case-by-case basis to ensure the ongoing viability of our local winter sports sector,” Hart said.

Dales addressed the September 28 Council meeting to explain that many sporting groups on the Coast were hurting financially.

The Sports Council had requested a 50 per cent discount in seasonal hire fees for competition and training and a refund for scheduled training events that had been unable to proceed from June 26.

“If a facility cannot be used, why should a fee be paid for such a facility?” Dales asked.

“Most players are ratepayers, and the maintenance of community facilities is included in their Council rates.

“Over the years Council has been placing more and more responsibility on associations and clubs regarding maintenance of sporting grounds.

“This year, like last year, basically half the winter season was lost due to the COVID pandemic and associated lockdowns.”

Dales said most codes and associations did not include ground fees in their affiliation fees to clubs but billed them separately.

Clubs raise money through canteen sales, fundraisers, sponsorships, and revenue from final series to pay ground fees.

“Fundraising, including sponsorships, this winter and last winter, has been nearly non-existent and clubs are barely keeping their heads above water,” Dales said.

“Council requires any group that hires any community facility to have public liability insurance.

“This can be the highest expenditure in their budget and is not refundable.

“Clubs are in such dire straits; they are asking for refunds on as many of these costs as they possibly can.

“We need all parties to come to the table.”

Most sporting bodies on the Coast have lost a huge amount financially this year as well as last year due to lockdowns.

Dales said some associations had paid clubs’ referee/umpire costs to help those who needed this income.

“Clubs have lost all their Finals Series revenue profit along with revenue from canteens during their normal competition rounds,” Dales said.

“We believe our request for a 50 per cent discount in seasonal hire fees for competition and training, plus a refund for any scheduled training event unable to proceed is a reasonable request.

“We were here earlier this year looking for a reduction in fees, which was denied.

“Please don’t deny us again.”

Each club will now have to face Council on a one-on-one basis.

This includes community groups using Council facilities such as community halls.

In the report to the Administrator, Council noted that it would be an easier process to create a credit note rather than provide a refund.

“Council’s winter season users were invoiced in May for the entire winter season,” the report stated.

“The total amount charged to all winter users was $387,686.83.

“Of this funding, $198,558 was journaled into 2021/22 financial year in recognition of when the facility usage would occur.

“If a 50 per cent fee reduction is approved, $193,843 (being the portion of the seasonal fees charged for the period from July 1 to September 26 which was not available to the community due to the lockdown) would need to be refunded.

“Community leasing/licensing rent relief requests will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, based on financial hardship, decline in organisation’s revenue and lack of financial capacity to cover the rental fees.

“Council manages over 300 community leases/licences.

“The budgeted rental income from July to October 2021 is $92,384; this does not include facility hire or recovery of outgoings such as utility bills.”

Merilyn Vale

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