We understand the fees charged to use West Coast Council managed sports facilities has become a matter of community concern and a topic of some debate on social media. Due to Covid-19 it is possible that not everyone that would like to come to the Council meeting to ask questions on this topic can, therefore we have decided to release this information in advance of the meeting.
The West Coast Council sets out the costs to use sports facilities in its Fees and Charges (available here). The fees and charges are set by Council each year in June, with the document available to the public in the Council agenda and voted on by Council at its June ordinary meeting as part of adopting the Annual Plan.
Fees generally consist of three parts:
1. A booking fee – this fee covers the costs of making bookings, checking Risk Management Plans or Covid Safe Plans etc.
2. A session fee – the aim of this fee is to contribute to the costs of maintaining sports facilities in our communities. In most cases the sessional fees paid for a facility represent less than 10% of the cost of maintaining the facility.
3. Ground Preparation Fees – this fee seeks only to recover the costs of the specific works requested by the person making the booking, we can charge this in advance (on the basis of an estimate) or in arrears, so that only the actual requested works cost is passed to the user.
It is the Ground Preparation Fee that causes the most concern as it can be quite high, but this is normally due to the work and materials required, for example it could be creating a long jump pit, where we need to use machinery, purchase sand and other materials, and provide labour or contractors to do the work. In all cases we seek to only pass on the actual costs of the works requested by the person or organisation making the booking.
We know that this fee can cause problems for some community groups therefore we have a range of options:
· Where people organise bookings with us early and are flexible we may be able to suggest dates near where Council works are pre-planned at the facility or another booking is happening. This may allow some ground preparation costs to be shared.
· Where users believe the Council costs are too high they can seek a quote for the work from one of the many local contractors, who due to equipment, location or other factors may be able to provide the ground preparation at a lower price. Provided that the user takes responsibility for public and player safety and the grounds are left in reasonable condition this can be approved by Council.
· Many organisations on the West Coast and around Tasmania use their own staff, members, or volunteers to do the ground preparation. Using staff, members, or volunteers to do things like line marking is a great way to reduce the fees payable and to get more people involved in the event. Provided that the user takes responsibility for public and player safety and the grounds are left in reasonable condition this can be approved by Council.
· Finally, where these options are not available, we do have the Financial and In-Kind grants program the policy is available here, and groups are welcome to apply for both financial assistance and fee subsidies. People requesting support need to fill out the request form and demonstrate a community benefit and financial need. These applications do take time to assess and may need to be approved at a Council meeting, therefore it is vital that applications are made as early as possible.
The West Coast Council are strong supporters of sport and recreation, as can be seen by our large investments in facilities and in the support that we provide through our financial and in-kind assistance program. In the most recent financial year Council expended $63,000of rate payers’ funds on sport facilities and recovered $7,000 in fees and charges.
We do however need sporting clubs and other users to work with us. Often concerns are raised on platforms such as Facebook, before groups have asked to meet us, or made an in-kind assistance request. At other times requests arrive only a couple of weeks before a booking, making it difficult to find cost savings or assess financial assistance applications.
Please help us to support you by:
1. Planning and talking to us early – the sooner you can meet with us, the more we can do to try and find cost savings and help you explore scheduling options that may reduce costs. The earlier you speak with us, the more likely it is that we can assist you fill out the forms and assess your applications.
2. Working with other organisations and clubs, if events can be scheduled close to each other this reduces the need for ground preparation works and can allow cost sharing.
3. Talking to local contractors, they can often provide services at a lower cost to Council due to their schedules and location.
4. Talking to your members and volunteers, or staff, to explore what ground preparation you can do, not only will you know better than us what you need for your game or activity but this is a great way to reduce costs and get people involved in your club or organisation.
5. Talking to us early about financial assistance if required – it takes us time to assess applications. Many clubs talk to us regularly and we are happy to meet with your committee or representatives.
West Coast Council