A proposal to charge community athletics groups as much as $75 an hour to use the new football field at has angered parents, who say it will prevent their children from using the new field.
The School Committee is considering an update of a facilities use policy that would charge groups, including youth lacrosse and soccer, three times as much as they had anticipated spending on field costs.
The committee has not yet approved the fee schedule, but the idea is to cover the maintenance and replacement costs of the synthetic field, said member Mike Walsh. Initially discussed on March 15, the policy will come back for further discussion on April 5. "We haven't even had a formal reading of the policy yet," Walsh said.
Walsh said he had received numerous emails from parents — about 25 by noon on Wednesday — upset over the change being considered. The issues can be worked out, he said. "If we all work together, we can do the right thing," he said.
Youth groups upset by the proposed change include Milford Youth Lacrosse, which distributed an email to parents on Tuesday, urging them to contact School Committee members, and attend the April 5 meeting in protest. Youth Lacrosse had expected to pay $25 an hour to use the new field — the amount recommended by a subcommittee of the town's . The proposed $75 an hour fee would cost the organization $10,500 for the season, and require more than $200 more from each lacrosse family, according to the email distributed to lacrosse parents.
"It seems that it has become a money grab for the school department," the Youth Lacrosse email stated. "The money for the field came from our tax dollars, not the School Committee budget."
for the new community facilities, including a new football field at the high school, tennis courts and a new track. The work was recently completed, and the spring season will be the first that teams can complete using the new athletics facilities.
On Wednesday afternoon, several Milford High teams were practicing on the new field, including girls' varsity lacrosse. Community groups, however, also want to use the new facility, and that was the intention, said Brian Murray, a Milford selectman who was that board's liaison on the Community Fields Committee.
Murray sent an email Wednesday to the School Committee members, Superintendent Robert Tremblay, and a lacrosse parent who had contacted him, in which he described the proposed fee as "another tax on a tax."
The rationale that future replacement needs should be covered by a fee is the same as arguing that the town would charge residents a fee for calling a police car or a fire truck, "because someday we have to replace those vehicles," Murray wrote. "That's what tax dollars do."
At the request of the school system, the town's Community Fields Committee had a subcommittee look into maintenance of the field and youth sports needs, Murray said, in a phone interview. This subcommittee on March 1 recommended a different fee schedule: groups primarily made up of Milford players would pay $25 an hour, while out-of-town organizations would pay $100 an hour.
The $25 an hour fee proposal was sent to a subcommittee of the full School Committee, which didn't incorporate it into the proposal now under consideration. A fee of $75 an hour was proposed instead. "They put something else together," said Murray, who said he was "very surprised" that the community fields' recommendation was rejected.
Of the $75 an hour amount, Murray said: "If they're deciding what the maintenance cost is, they're doing it in a vacuum."
Because the youth soccer and lacrosse seasons begin in April, Murray said time is a factor for the school system to establish the policy for groups to use the field. "These kids need to be on that field," he said.