Lights Out for Pop Warner in St. Johns Co? | News
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- A budget battle is heating up in St. Johns County. At issue is an increase to the millage rate. The proposed hike would cost families $75 dollars for every $100,000 their home is worth.
But some Pop Warner football coaches say voting it down could cost the county even more.
"To take this away from them would just be a crime," says Coach Angelo Vespi. He has been working with these kids for 5 years, and knows how important it it to them to get out on the field.
"To see their faces, win or lose, it doesn't matter, they're thrilled to play the game," he said.
But the kids need the county fields to practice and to play.
And if the millage rate increase is voted down, league organizers say they won't have to money to weed, paint, or light the fields.
"You just can't practice. Once Daylight Savings comes in October First you need to turn on the lights or you can't practice," says Head Coach Chuck Forcier.
He says funding for parks and rec in St. Johns County has already been cut 25% in the past five years, and they're done doing more with less.
"We're now maxed out to the point that we can't cut anymore without affecting our programs," he said.
County Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson recognizes there is a problem. "Without some millage rate adjustment, quality of life services as well as public safety will suffer. And that's the challenge that's facing the Board," she said.
Balancing the budget has gotten harder every year in St. Johns County, and after last year's fiscal plan forced more than 100 layoffs, Stevenson says the full .75 mills increase will be a tough sell.
"At some point something has to give. We've had a lot of sacrifices," she said.
Forcier has a whole list of things that shouldn't be sacrificed.
"Football, baseball, lacrosse, girls softball, soccer," he said.
The preliminary vote will be held September 6th.