Viewpoint: What is really going on with youth sports and I-SS?
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and no not represent the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education or other members.
BY MARTIN PAGE
There has been lots of discussion and confusion about the recent issues regarding the community recreational youth sports organizations. The Iredell County Recreation Department (ICRD) and Iredell-Statesville Schools (ISS) have worked together to develop a process that will better serve these organizations. The goal of both entities is to make sure Iredell County’s community youth sports organizations have the opportunity to use taxpayer-funded athletic facilities without paying a facility usage cost.
At no time in the past have ICRD nor I-SS had operational control over these community youth athletic organizations, nor will they in the future. ICRD simply verified the paperwork necessary to confirm the identity of these groups as non-profit recreational community youth athletic organizations. This recognition from ICRD allowed these groups to use I-SS facilities without a facility usage fee as set by I-SS Board Policy 5030.
ICRD had no direct control over the facilities. I-SS had control of the facilities but not the review and identification process. The Iredell County Board of Commissioners and ICRD desired to get out of the position of being the middle man and the liability incurred by that position.
Very little is changing with the new agreement. Let’s review the history and where we are today:
In the past, Iredell-Statesville Schools allowed the community recreational youth sports organizations to use I-SS fields and gyms at no direct cost under a 1995 agreement between Iredell-Statesville Schools and Iredell County Recreation Department.
The original agreement provided $25,000 per year in financial support from ICRD to I-SS to help pay for the additional utilities and maintenance costs associated with the organizations’ usage. Community sports organizations are by far the most frequent users of school facilities.
ICRD now pays I-SS $50,000 per year for two reasons. The system has built many new schools and athletic fields since 1995. The costs for utilities and maintenance of the athletic facilities, used by both ICRD programs and the community-based youth athletic organizations, has also increased greatly in the past 24 years.
In the past and continuing in the future, these identified organizations, in order to use I-SS facilities, are required to turn in facility-use forms to the school principals before each season. This process will not change. The school principal processes the requests.
Once approved by the principal, these requests are sent to the system office for review and approval. Some schools require these organizations to provide security and/or custodial service when using the facilities.
In the past these organizations turned in verification that they had conducted background checks of their coaches, had liability insurance, and had legal non-profit status to ICRD. ICRD also requested accounting procedures and annual reports from these organizations. They then notified the school system of organizations approved as community-based youth sports organizations.
Iredell County commissioners recently voted to no longer verify these organizations’ information. Thankfully, they did vote to continue providing the utilities and maintenance money for all of these organizations as in the past.
Representatives from ICRD, Iredell County Government, and Iredell-Statesville Schools have met many times to discuss these issues and have come up with a plan we believe is beneficial to all concerned. The plan will be reviewed after one year.
In order to continue a reasonable relationship with these organizations, I-SS will have to make minor changes in its Facilities Use Policy to validate these groups as recreational community youth sports organizations and set requirements specific to them.
The Board of Education recently reviewed a revised Facility Use Policy, under which I-SS will be doing basically the same thing it has done in the past, allowing the local community-based sports organizations to use the facilities at no direct cost.
Under the new plan, I-SS will now have the responsibility to review the organizations’ paperwork to identify them as non-profit, recreational youth sports organizations. The advantage in this new system is that I-SS will have the direct communication with these groups regarding its policies.
This new responsibility for the school system will cause some additional work for I-SS, but ICRD has agreed to pay I-SS an additional $35,000 -- if approved by the county commissioners -- for additional support of I-SS to certify these sports organizations.
Most of the same procedures for the sports organizations will remain in effect as in the past. To be clear, I-SS will not be in charge of the operation or administration of these organizations in any way. Community youth sports organizations will operate exactly as they have in the past.
The only difference in this new process is that the verification paperwork will come straight to I-SS, not to ICRD as in the past. This procedure gives I-SS more control over verifying the organizations’ required credentials and better control over who uses I-SS facilities.
Our local community sports associations provide a very important service for the youth of Iredell County. The opportunities for getting exercise, practicing teamwork, learning character lessons, and building friendships that these organizations provide are an important part of our children’s overall development.
Martin Page is the chairman of the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education.