Sunday, December 7, 2003

Loveland considers play fees

Many kids on city teams live in townships

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOVELAND - About five years after Loveland dropped a controversial head tax for township kids who play in youth sports leagues, city leaders are talking about bringing it back.

But officials in Symmes and Miami townships threaten it won't happen without a fight.

Saying Loveland provides the bulk of fields to leagues that have fewer city players, a report suggests charging an additional $10 to $20 fee to township athletes.

City Manager Fred Enderle said the money would help foot rising costs to mow and prepare the fields.

"City of Loveland taxpayers are supporting athletic leagues more than twice the city needs," Enderle said.

A study prompted by city budget discussions reported that two-thirds - or 2,034 players in soccer, baseball, softball and football - came from the townships, while Loveland provided 20 of 32 fields. The leagues bear Loveland's name, but include all children in Loveland City Schools.

The report showed that maintaining fields cost the city $44,000 in 2001 and 2002, about twice as much as 1999. In addition, the city paid $22,000 last year to improve drainage between soccer fields in Phillips Park.

Loveland officials cautioned that they won't make any decisions on reinstituting a head tax until sometime next year, and some suggested there are other ways to resolve the city's concerns.

Parents said the tax would be unfair, and township officials threatened to reciprocate with additional fees for Loveland kids.

"If they are going to do it so that our kids can play on their property, then we are going to tax the Loveland kids who play on Symmes fields," Trustee Kathy Wagner said. "This will end up in a war and it benefits nobody. It especially hurts the kids. I think it's a stupid idea."

P.J. Hannan, a Loveland parent and president of the Greater Loveland Baseball-Softball Association, wants the city to look at other solutions.

"A previous tax was eventually dropped because of the administrative headaches and costs as well as the animosities created between the city and neighboring townships," Hannan said. "I would hate to see political battles adversely affect the athletic programs and participants in Loveland."

The city levied a head tax on township players in the mid-1990s, before Symmes and Miami had developed new parks with fields. That created a backlash from the leagues - and an accounting nightmare for Loveland - after the leagues collected the head tax from every player, forcing the city to refund the fee to its residents.

Council later eliminated the tax after the townships contributed fields from their new parks or leased space at churches and businesses to provide them.

Lynda Hawk, a Symmes Township resident who is a soccer coach and soccer mom, said she thinks her community "pulls its weight" in contributing fields to the programs.

"It better not happen," Hawk said of the head tax. "They are trying to teach the community to work together, and then they tear and divide by three."


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