Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Financial aid there for youth athletics

Leader staff writer

Questions concerning whether or not Cabot Parks and Recreation offers scholarships for low-income children were brought up by Alderman Ed Long, who is on the Advertising and Promotion Commission during Tuesday’s Advertising and Promotion meeting.

“Some of those fees for kids seemed a little high, especially when we have so many kids on free and reduced lunches in Cabot. There is a lot of money in Cabot but there are a lot of poor folks, too,” Long said.

An example Long gave was the volleyball registration fee is $70.

“Volleyball is great for kids, but the kids who need it the most are the ones sitting at home eating chips and Ramen noodles, the ones who need it the most and can least afford it,” Long said.

“It is a need that we are missing. If there is a way for it to be filled, we need to fill it.

“Entities that are tax payer supported have an obligation to go a little further on supporting things other folks do,” Long said.

The commission helps to support parks and recreation with funding collected from a 1.5 percent sales tax on prepared foods.

Parks director John Crow said sports programs and sports associations fees have money directed to fund scholarships. Crow said the fees could be lowered $5.

Crow said, “All of our fees are based on direct and indirect costs for our programs. We don’t pad our numbers. We bank on our concession sales.”

Football has a lot of equipment costs. Crow said there is used equipment available for struggling families.

“But we don’t turn anyone away,” Crow said.

“We don’t advertise that we offer scholarships, but we have scholarship applications, based on free and reduced lunch status at the school,” Crow said.

Crow continued, “The reason we don’t advertise is that we’ve had families who pull up in a $40,000 SUV and have eight kids pile out. They’ll say, I heard you give out scholarships, I’ve got six kids who need to play sports, can you give a two-for-one deal?”

Long suggested scholarship information is given to school counselors. They see the children who need to participate. He said there is a lot of need in Cabot schools that are being met.

Long said he is checking with the city attorney to see if $3,000 returned from Cabot’s Fourth of July celebration to the A and P Commission can be redirected for scholarships youth sports programs.

Cabot’s youth sports registration fees are very similar to surrounding cities. Cabot youth soccer costs, on average, about $10 less than Jacksonville, depending on age group, while baseball and softball in Cabot is slightly higher than Jacksonville.

Jacksonville does not have a citywide youth football program, which is typically the most expensive sport to play on a strictly local level. Cabot is $10 more than the next closest city, Beebe, at $90 per player. That fee also does not include cleats, helmets or shoulder pads.