Hart district delays field fee hikes 

The sign in front of the William S. Hart Union High School District administrative office. Katherine Quezada/The Signal
The sign in front of the William S. Hart Union High School District administrative office. Katherine Quezada/The Signal

New structure was supposed to take effect July 1, would have raised AYSO fees from $8,400 per season to $154,700, per soccer officials 

After receiving concerns from Santa Clarita Valley youth sports organizations over increased facilities use fees, the William S. Hart Union High School District is delaying the implementation of those fees until January. 

The issue arose after the American Youth Soccer Organization Area 10S board, which oversees the four local regions of AYSO, sent an email to parents warning them of possible future increases in their fees to counter the “astronomical” fee increases they received from the Hart district. 

Robert Benavidez, commissioner of AYSO Area 10S, said in a phone interview on Friday that it would be “good news” if the fees for this year are not increased. He added that the regions were prepared to look at alternative options, including using reserve funds, but that increasing registration fees for the fall season was not on the table. 

According to the email, a region was being quoted $154,767.34 for one season, which consists of 58 weekdays and 12 Saturdays. Last year, one season of 60 weekdays and 12 Saturdays for a region cost $8,400.95, according to the email. 

“Because the Santa Clarita Valley lacks sufficient park space, we depend on these fields as they are the only ones that meet our needs for the majority of our players,” the email states. “While we are not opposed to an increase, the rates we are now quoted are astronomical.” 

In a phone interview on Friday, Ralph Peschek, assistant superintendent of business services for the Hart district, said the proposed fees would have been “significant increases,” but would not confirm the quote that AYSO had been given. He added that the district will need to continue to have conversations with local nonprofits over the next six months. 

The Hart district is now reevaluating its fees for nonprofits, which are allowed to be charged for direct costs, as defined by state education code, according to a statement from the district issued to The Signal on Friday. 

“During the 12-month period between July 1, 2023, and June 30, 2024, youth sports organizations have collectively utilized over 17,000 hours of gym, field and facilities access,” the statement reads. “Those facilities experience accelerated wear and an associated loss of lifespan. That additional wear and tear has a ‘direct cost’ associated with it to maintain, operate, repair and replace district facilities.” 

The district’s governing board had approved updating the facilities use fees in May, only the second time in 20 years that those fees have been updated. Those fees were set to be implemented July 1. 

“It is true that nonprofits utilizing Hart district facilities have previously only been required to reimburse the district for custodial salary costs when district staff are not normally scheduled,” the district statement reads. “But, there have been no rental fees charged to those organizations to contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of Hart facilities. 

“However, we realize that a July 1, 2024, implementation may not have provided nonprofits adequate time to prepare and adapt to this new cost structure,” the statement continues. “The Hart district has a long and dedicated history of supporting programs focused on the youth of the Santa Clarita Valley.  That commitment has not wavered, especially to youth athletic programs whose fee structures make them accessible to all SCV youth.” 

The district will now “evaluate how best to balance access to educational facilities by community users, and the cost to maintain the facilities, with the desire to support nonprofit youth athletic programs.” 

Hart district governing board member Joe Messina said in a phone interview on Friday that “given the way the money is, and the budget deficit how it is, we want to be fair with everybody.” 

“We can’t absorb all the costs,” Messina said, adding, “It’s a good thing for the kids to have these kinds of programs.” 

Had the fees not been reverted back to their previous standing — at least temporarily — AYSO Area 10S was warning parents that fee increases for players could be implemented. 

“Not only will this hurt AYSO families, but it will put programs in jeopardy,” the AYSO email reads. “Cash reserves will be depleted by these fees, leaving programs unable to manage any emergencies that may arise.” 

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Peschek said all school districts use the same methods to determine the costs for outside organizations to use facilities, as outlined in the state education code. 

“We want to be good partners with these nonprofit groups,” Peschek said, adding that the previous fees had nonprofits, which pay 25% less than private organizations, basically using the fields for free when factoring in the actual associated costs. 

The fee structure that was meant to go into effect on July 1 had the following per-hour rates for permitting a field: 

  • Nonprofits: $51 per hour for a soccer field and $244.40 per hour for a football stadium.  
  • Private groups: $68 per hour for a soccer field and $325.86 per hour for a football stadium.  

Should lights be requested, an additional fee of $25 per hour would have been applicable for both types of groups, with a two-hour minimum. Parking lots also would have had a fee of $29.19 per hour for nonprofits and $38.92 per hour for private groups, with a four-hour minimum.  

Custodial fees of $58 per hour for both groups also would have been applicable for activities that take place outside of normal work days or if the activity requires additional support, with a four-hour minimum.  

Those fees would be more than double what the city of Santa Clarita charges nonprofits for its fields. Nonprofits are charged $22 per hour for multipurpose fields and ball fields, with another $10 per hour if lights are used. A field deposit of $250 is also required.  

As proposed, the city is not looking to change its fees for nonprofits, while the increase of the usage for a private entity is going up $1, from $44 to $45, according to Lance O’Keefe, recreation and community services manager for the city.  

That change, which is mostly due to Consumer Price Index increases and usually comes out to about a dollar or two each year, is set to go before the City Council for approval at its next meeting on Tuesday, O’Keefe said. 

According to Benavidez, there is simply too much demand for city fields with five club soccer programs, flag football programs and city programs for the local AYSO regions to count on that space on a weekly basis. 

As far as what will happen come January, Benavidez said “we’ll have to wait and see” how everything plays out. 

“We just want to make sure everyone is in compliance and kids can stay active,” he said. 

Signal Senior Staff Writer Perry Smith contributed to this report.

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