I am writing this letter to express my disappointment in our school committee members decision to double user fees for the High School Hockey Team. First, I would like to clear up some myths about the High School Hockey program and the related costs. Wakefield unlike just about every other Middlesex League team does not have its own rink. Wakefield practices sometimes at four different rinks during the week. Most teams in the Middlesex League have their own rink to practice and play games, and also their own locker room where they store their gear and workout and video equipment. Wakefield’s locker room is in the back of their car or the back hall of the gym where hockey bags and sticks are piled up each morning waiting to be retrieved each afternoon for the mad dash to make practice to rinks as far away as Charlestown. There is no question that ice time costs money, costs that you see regularly because you are invoiced monthly. However there are substantial costs for other programs that are not as burdensome to the participant’s families because all tax payers foot the bill not just 45 families.
Also, unlike other Wakefield High sports programs, the hockey team does not take a bus to many of their away games. Wakefield Hockey players incur the costs and liability of driving themselves to away games at Reading, Stoneham and Melrose. Additionally, the JV team families deserve a refund not a surcharge. They travel to East Boston to practice, their home games are in the North End and if a parent wants to watch their son or daughter play it will cost $20 to Park for a game that may or may not be completed in three periods because there is a time limit on the ice.
I know it has been said before but Wakefield Hockey provides for their own equipment including helmets, gloves, sticks, skates and skate sharpening. There was a time not long ago a lot of these expenses were provided by the school. Contrary to some people’s belief Wakefield hockey has a booster club that raises considerable monies each year, paying for additional practice ice, assistant coach’s salary, new Jerseys, gloves, warm-up suits and the end of year banquet. I certainly think we are doing our part.
I hear all the time how hockey cost more than other sports and parents are used to paying $2000 or $2500 to play youth hockey and their getting a great deal so let’s charge more. These points don’t add up. First of all just because your son or daughter took private music lessons and are used to paying that cost doesn’t mean you should charge more to be in the high school band. We have a $28 million dollar school budget to manage yet somehow this budget relies on raising 10,000 to 12,000 from 45 families that have sons or daughters playing Hockey representing the town of Wakefield. Surely there are some administration costs that can be looked at or costs of all these redundant IT consultants we seemed to be hiring. I come from a different school of thought. We would not have any user fee. In fact I think we should be promoting extracurricular activities not charging more for them especially in this day an age of mindless video games. Burlington, Woburn, Wilmington and Hamden to name a few towns do not charge such fees. Reading, certainly a well managed town, charges a reasonable across the board user fee of $175.
More to the point, I read the June 21, 2012 article in The Item when these fees were voted in that this was somehow an innovative approach by charging different fees for different activities. With all due respect this action does not qualify as innovative or thinking outside the box. Thinking outside the Box would be to take the $5,000,000 from renewing a Bond (by the way there is cost to this even though it doesn’t change our tax rates) and instead of new turf fields and Gym floor build a hockey rink that can be an enterprise that generates revenue back to the town. Then we institute a field fee on a much larger group of football, soccer, field hockey lacrosse, tennis, track, basketball and town youth programs. These fees along with the revenue from the rink can be used to fund the new fields, tennis courts and gym floor. Or should we should charge a user fee for AP classes because clearly the cost per student is higher or for that matter Biology should have a user fee because Biology labs costs more than English classes. Where do you draw the line?
Just recently I read an article in the item on what good financial shape the town of Wakefield is in and how we recently gave a rebate in taxes back to the rate payers and how much free cash we have stashed away for a rainy day. Well it’s raining on 45 Wakefield Hockey families. Maybe the town should earmark a donation to relieve this additional fee placed on the Hockey team. I believe the hockey team has proudly represented the town of Wakefield well these past two years by playing in front of thousands of towns people and students in the Boston garden and Tsongas Arena. The past two years, graduation commencements speakers have spoken on how meaningful the school spirit at these playoff games were to their high school experience. Google Wakefield Red Sea and you will see to what I am referring. Wakefield High School Athletics and hockey in particular, make a vital contribution to the town and school every bit as vital as scholastic and other extracurricular endeavors. Why then are hockey families financially penalized when most other school activities are properly subsidized. Finally can someone actually tell the Hockey families where the extra fees are going or being used for as I believe the school budget was already approved prior to these fees being increased by the school committee.
Wakefield High Hockey Parent