Fees for Latrobe-Unity recreation programs may rise

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Latrobe-Unity Parks and Recreation Commission is beginning to consider financial options for when Unity no longer contributes at the end of the year.

Among the possibilities is raising program rates for township residents.

The 10-year intermunicipal agreement was not renewed by the township in 2012, which will result in a loss of $162,000 per year beginning in 2015, said Commissioner Dan Hennessey at Thursday's meeting.

Unity contributes about 20 percent to the annual budget, while the City of Latrobe contributes 9 percent and the Greater Latrobe School District contributes about 10 percent, with the remainder coming from other funding sources.

Taxes supporting the commission are based on a $7.16 per capita rate annually.

Without Unity's involvement, the group will have about $35,000 to $40,000 less in expenses because it no longer will have to pay to maintain the parks in the township, said Hennessey, who heads the finance committee.

In order to account for the rest of the void left without the township funding, the commission has to consider raising fees to balance the budget, but is not finished exploring different possibilities, he said.

“We need to do more work to look at what other options we've got to balance this budget,” Hennessey said.

Residents in Unity and those outside the Greater Latrobe School District could experience increases of $12 each to participate in a program. For example, deck hockey fees would rise from $60 up to $72, tennis lessons from $42 to $54 and a family pool pass rom $125 to $200.

Hennessey said the figures compare to what other recreation programs charge, such as the proposed increase to swimming lessons to about $50 for someone in Unity. Hempfield charges $55 for swim lesson participants from outside the township, according to Executive Director Jeanne Ashley.

The three members of the commission that represent Unity didn't comment about the possible fee increases during the meeting. Greg Fumea and Ron Kuhns could not be reached for comment, and Joe Mozina declined to comment. Township Supervisor Mike O'Barto, who did not attend the meeting, declined to comment.

Contributing to probable fee increases is the possibility that the United Way will not award grant money as it has in the past, Ashley said.

Any donations designated specifically by donors for the Latrobe-Unity Parks and Recreation, which usually amounted to about $3,000 to $5,000, will still be awarded to the organization, she said.

About seven to eight years ago, the United Way was a key contributor to parks programs, giving at one point about $78,000 to the Latrobe-Unity organization, Ashley said.

“Slowly but surely, it started to go down little by little by little,” she said.

Funding will continue through the fiscal year of 2014, up to July, but Ashley received a letter earlier this month that the program is “not closely aligned with the current United Way strategic plan” for any major 2015 grant contributions.

Normal inflation is factored into the likely increase, because program fees have not had any major hikes in many years, Ashley said.

The fee changes would only apply to those programs beginning in 2015 with the commission is considering how to handle winter programs that stretch across the calendar year, Hennessey said.

The commission needs to have the fee schedule in place by August when the fall/winter program brochures are published, he said.

Although not principally for financial gain, the creation of partnerships with neighboring organizations and municipalities are being discussed, the commission reported.

Talks, begun early last year, are continuing with the Ligonier Valley YMCA and Excela Health, Hennessey said.

In December, a number of officials met at Keystone State Park, including representatives from Derry Township, Derry borough, Blairsville and New Alexandria, about the best use of the area's resources, Ashley reported to the commission.

At that meeting, members of Derry council expressed interest in joining the regional recreation and had preliminary discussions with Ashley at a lunch meeting last week.

The borough council members suggested considering the inclusion of Derry Township and New Alexandria, Ashley said.

“We're all really within seven to 8 miles, it's all really very, very close,” she said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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