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Funding for groups is a slippery slope best not traveled

September 09, 2009

In the words of Ronald Reagan, there they go again.

The Washington County Commissioners approved $5,000 to help pay the travel costs for the families of Conococheague Little League players after the kids advanced to regional play in Connecticut.

This follows the decision a year ago to award $10,000 to Federal Little League families for the same purpose. (Federal advanced further in tournament play, justifying the higher amount, the commissioners said.)

Indeed, this was an allocation the commissioners almost had to make -- which is precisely the reason we wish they hadn't. The commissioners effectively cut the check for Conococheague when they approved funding for Federal a year ago. After paying Federal's costs, they could hardly say no to Conococheague -- just as they can hardly say no to the next winning Little League team. And the next.

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As Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire (who dissented in the 3-2 vote along with Commissioner William J. Wivell) said, it's a slippery slope best not traveled.

Even in difficult economic times, however, others might see nothing wrong with a small stipend. In the grand scheme of county budgets, the sum is, after all, peanuts. But without a set policy in place, the commissioners are painting themselves into an increasingly awkward corner.

What of band trips, science fair trips, soccer trips, cheerleading trips or academic trips? All groups that advance to some sort of regional competition are going to see the county budget as fair pickings.

So with each monetary award, the commissioners are taking another step down the plank, and in the end, someone is bound to get soaked. Or angry at being left out.

Little League has a rich, 70-year history that most other competitions do not. Its series is celebrated around the world, and the games are broadcast on national television.

So the commissioners could logically draw the line here. Or, since the majority of residents see this as a poor use of their tax dollars, they could erase the line altogether and decide the county no longer will serve as a virtual travel agent.

The county needs to publicly state its position and its policy toward such requests. Already, other groups have stepped forward seeking similar help, and if the county bowed to all comers, Aleshire estimates the requests could easily total $250,000 per year.

It has to stop somewhere, and the sooner the county puts the lid back on this can of worms, the better.

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