Council approves $10k for umps despite confusion in funding

The Winslow Little League is set to throw out the first pitch of the 2005 season on April 16 with more than 600 children playing ball.

First, the league needed the city to play ball with funding for 100-plus umpires and scorekeepers, which it did after confusion was cleared up about where the money will come from.

Last year, the city originally budgeted $7,000 to the league’s Winslow Umpires Association but found an additional $3,000. The league also received $3,500 from the Chamber of Commerce to cover the additional cost with adding a second all-star tournament.

At the March 22 City Council meeting, Little League Co-Presidents Debbie Brown and Valerie Huerta asked the city for the full $10,000. However, for the fourth consecutive year, the city only budgeted $7,000 for the league.

The League operates two financial accounts – one as a general fund and the other just for umpires and scorekeepers. The league paid out about $11,612 last season from the umpire fund. Records show a surplus of about $4,155 in he general fund through January 2005.

Huerta and Brown said the total exceeded $10,000 because of the addition of a second all-star tournament, which is scheduled again for this season. They are also seeking money from the Chamber of Commerce but said they were told by the Chamber to go before City Council first.

The money the league receives from the Chamber also comes from the city. Each year, the city budgets $15,000 to the Chamber of Commerce as a Community Foundation Grant to promote local organizations.

City Financial Director Gina Reffner raised the issue that the Little League has not been living up to its end of an agreement it signed five years ago when the city began funding the umpire account.

The league had $1,888 in the umpire fund from last season. Reffner said that according to the agreement, the league is supposed to return any unspent funds to the city within 60 days from the end of the season. Those funds are earmarked for field upgrades. Reffner said the league has only repaid the unspent money once.

Huerta and Brown said that since they were new presidents this season they were unaware of previous agreements with the city.

City Administrator John Roche told the Council that the city wasn’t trying to undermine the league by raising the issue of the non-returned funds but was trying to do the job for which they were hired.

“The city staff is 100-percent behind the Little League but we do have a fiduciary responsibility to properly use public funds,” he said.

The league requested $10,000 from the city for its umpires and scorekeepers in both 2000 and 2001. However, the league cut that to $7,000 in 2002 and 2003. The drop in funding in 2002 was due to a cutback in the number of umpires. However, this led to a larger number of disputes at games.

Council member Judy Howell made the motion to approve the full $10,000 with any leftover money to be returned to the city as per the agreement She said the league is important to Winslow because it gives Winslow’s youth a productive outlet.

“For all the money we spend, this is our best return on our investment,” Howell said.

The Council unanimously approved Howell’s motion, with two members absent.

This season, Joseph City will participate in each of the age groups except tee-ball. Huerta and Brown said there are more than 100 children signed up for tee-ball this season. There are 49 teams playing this season, up six from last year.

The season will be dedicated to Winslow’s sons and daughters serving in the U.S. military. Winslow soldiers will throw out the ceremonial first pitches on Opening Day.

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