EDISON – Members of the Cricketing Fraternity have expressed opposition against what they call an “unfair, unjust” increase in field use permit fees for using township school grounds.
Through a memo, the Edison Township Public Schools relayed permit fees this year would total $500 per team for the season that runs from the end of April to the beginning of September.
“This charge was an unprecedented increase from the $50 charges in the past and much higher than what the township is charging of $160 per team for the year,” said Vijay Dy, who is representing the Cricketing Fraternity.
Members of the fraternity, which has expanded from seven teams to 47-plus teams since they formed 22 years ago, attended the Edison Board of Education (BOE) on April 26 and Township Council meeting on April 27 to express their concerns.
Schools Superintendent Bernard Bragen said in March he met with three representatives of the Cricket League and talked about what the process was going to be.
“The typical use of facilities for an outside agency for any group is $100 per occurrence so we thought in discussions that price [of $500 per team] was fair,” he said. “In the past, the BOE has never been involved in the Cricket League. Last year, we wound up overseeing it and coordinating efforts. I know a lot of people in our office spent time working with a few people in scheduling [the fields for the cricket teams]. It was a lot more work for us, but we tried to do it and accommodate it. When discussions began for this year, questions arose about [the impact of] children and students of Edison Township. Typically, the understanding I had, is the leagues are primarily adults rather than students and children.”
In previous years, the township Recreation Department handled the facility building uses for the schools.
“In our conversation with the three representatives of the league, we shared the transition [of oversight of permit fees] would go back to the recreation department,” Bragen said, noting the district would continue to maintain the pitches and cut the grass as close to the weekends during the cricket season.
Board President Doug Schneider said, speaking on a personal level, he believes the board should not invest any funds for adult recreation nor invest in field maintenance or construction if it does not pertain to the schools.
“When I pay my taxes, my taxes are to be spent on schools and school children,” he said, adding the board should not be in the business of cricket and has a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer.
He noted the memo does recognize if teams have financial hardships to contact the district.
The Township Council had a resolution authorizing a shared services agreement with the BOE for the maintenance and use of the cricket pitches, which was tabled after a spirited discussion.
Councilman Ajay Patil shared his concerns of the permit fee increase.
Dy said the fee increase impacts 47-plus teams that utilize the fields during the season. He said the teams, who are made up of 11 to 18 members, are self-managed.
Each season, teams can invest $5,000 to $7,000 from league fees, insurance, and equipment to mats, dirt and providing Johnny on the Spot, he said.
Dy said among the members there are approximately 50 to 60 children ages 10-18 who play the game with them. Adult team members accommodate the children’s fees.
In 2019, the cricket leagues helped promote the game within the school district and held a cricket camp and an interschool competition between students from John P. Stevens High School and Edison High School.
The teams – made up of 70-80% Edison residents – play on alternate weekends to help accommodate the many teams. Dy said Board member Jerry Shi and Councilman Patil were instrumental in maximizing the fields for the teams.
Dy said over the years, the cricket game has grown in popularity across the township. And with USA Cricket part of the 2024 World Cup for the first time, he expects “the remarkable milestone” to increase the popularity.
The Cricket Fraternity has requested the BOE and township to keep the fees as they were from last year since timing of the fee increase has not given the teams enough time to look for alternative options.