Back in June, officials from the Petal Parks and Recreation Department announced that the Petal Sports Association’s revenues came in at $37,000 with one quarter left in the 2020-21 fiscal year - the highest amount the organization had seen since forming its partnership with the City of Petal.
That momentum carried into the fourth quarter, which garnered $23,736, bringing the association’s yearly total to $126,452. That number is $22,000 more than the Petal Sports Association generated throughout the duration of last year.
Those figures - along wth a check for the $23,736 - was presented by PSA president Jerry DeFatta during the Sept. 7 meeting of the Petal Board of Aldermen.
“Now, keep in mind that last year, our total number was significantly higher, but we had a contribution from (Forrest) County of about $92,500,” said DeFatta, who also serves on the Petal School District Board of Trustees. “So last year, $104,000; this year, right at $126,000.
“So the program continues to grow; it’s really been incredible to be a part of and see how that works.”
As one of last year’s cost-saving measures, the City of Petal gave a $7,500 annual allowance for equipment, including baseball and football necessities. However, PSA officials were able to absorb that cost in-house and were still able to generate $22,000 more than they did the year before.
“I think our staff … do a really good job,” DeFatta said. “A few years ago, there were three people that were working there; now we have two, and our programs continue to grow.
“We continue to generate more revenue for the city, and provide more opportunities for students. So obviously, as we continue to move forward, we want to continue to build this relationship with (the city); we’re coming to a point to where we need to sit down and talk about the relationship we want to form."
PSA’s growth includes 516 student athletes who participated in the baseball program and 121 who participated in softball, for a total of 637 in those two programs. Football numbers include 290 participants who are registered to take place in that sport, up from 182 the prior year.
“So we’re up 108 from last year, which is incredible,” DeFatta said. “But we know last year had COVID, and the year before last, in 2019, we had 223.
“So 67 more students - another two and a half teams - are playing football this year. Our programs have done really, really well over the last year.”
DeFatta also referenced the upcoming additional 3 percent sales tax at Petal restaurants, which is expected to bring $7500,000 in extra revenue to the city on an annual basis. The funds raised from the tax, which should begin to be collected in November or December, will go toward the city’s parks and recreation department, which would allow the city to maintain that department at its current level.
That, in turn, would free up money in the city’s general fund that could be used for measures such as the police department, fire department or infrastructure.
The increase was approved by Petal voters during an August 3 special election.
“(This isn’t just) about Petal sports - that’s a big part of it, and we know that Petal sports supporters really support this initiative,” DeFatta said. “But there are seniors in our community who want walking tracks; there are other people in the community who want to play pickle ball. There may be some opportunities to pave some parking lots, to build some splash pads - the possibilities are endless.
At the end of the day, I think we have to sit down as a community - we’re going to include everybody from the school, to Petal sports, to seniors in our community and the churches - and let’s get a good group of people together to talk about what our priorities are. If we use this a solution to all of our problems, we may never get somewhere. We have a unique opportunity with this 3 percent to do some things for our community that can outlive our lifetimes, that can make this community a better place for our children and our grandchildren.”
In addition, DeFatta encouraged the board to make sure that every bit of the funds from the 3 percent tax is accounted for.
“I want you to show exactly what you do with it, exactly how it will impact this community, and use it as a way to be transparent with our community about how government can best provide resources for our community,” he told board members. "I appreciate the relationship we’ve developed, and I want to continue to encourage you to help build a team atmosphere for a lot of reasons.
“There have been some places where we’re all on the same page; in this role, I think (the board’s) responsibility is to play the team builder. So I would like to encourage you again to build a team between the city and the Parks and Recreation staff."