An increase is an increase
By: Mike Walton (blackeagle)
Posted On: 2019-11-11
Money (copied from Bing under fair usage guidelines)
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA)'s National Executive Board announced on Wednesday (23 October 2019) the following:
"Starting next year (2020), the Boy Scouts of America membership fee will be $60 a year for all registered youth in Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Venturing and Sea Scouting. The annual fee for adult members and youth in the Exploring program will be $36."
(My math isn't all that grand, but the increase comes to close to 94% in all programs except Exploring, and close to a 20% increase in that young adult program and for all registered adults. The previous fee across the board was $33 regardless of program.)
It could have been much worse.
Still, my email box at home and the one in Minnesota are filling with emails like this one:
"Mike...I am going to have to take my entire family -- me, my wife, my two Scout sons, and my daughter -- out of Scouting. It has become too expensive for us to be a part of the program, and it's time for us to find something else to belong to... Scouting has been so important to our family, and when our youngest got old enough to join, we gladly were among the first in line to get her registered and uniformed! But with this increase, we can't do it anymore...thanks for your help and assistance over the years..."
As they say on that "money show" on public radio, let's do the numbers:
Let's first keep in mind that we are talking ONLY ABOUT the National registration fee. While their local BSA Council may or may not add an additional fee (which the BSA said will not exceed $60 per person), we are looking at the National fee...
This year, a family of five paid a national registration fee of five times $33, or $165. They paid this fee at the time that the unit -- the Cub Scout Pack, Scout Troop, Venturing Crew or Sea Scout Ship -- rechartered for the next year of Scouting. In their case, their Troop rechartered in February of this year...so they are good until the Troop recharters again in February of NEXT (2020) year.
At that time, they will have to pay the BSA $252, or an increase of $87.00. Divide this by 12 months, and the actual increase for that family of five comes to $7.25 a month (the cost of a Burger King(TM) value meal -- sandwich, fries, drink -- with taxes. In my personal case, that $7.25 will buy me a Starbucks(TM) Venti Mocha along with a pastry, not that I would know about such things...*smiling*)
An $87 increase for a value-added program is really not that much of an increase, but to some families, an increase of ANY KIND is an increase. So the BSA has been thinking about this (those who say they haven't thought about this at ALL really needs to pay attention to what they stated yesterday:
"The BSA is committed to ensuring that all youth can experience the character-building benefits of Scouting regardless of their financial situation. In addition to the many existing council and unit membership assistance funds, the BSA has established the donor-funded Growing Future Leaders Fund to provide financial support to those who need it."
Many local Councils are setting up their own funding mechanisms to help cover the difference between what they would pay and what the new fee will be.
"You are not counting all of the other costs associated with Scouting...you know, the uniforms, the books, the badges, the camps, all that stuff."
Have news for all of you: those costs would increase REGARDLESS of the BSA's increase in their national fee. If the fee remained the same next year like this one, those families would STILL have to pay a bit more for a new uniform for their youngest; for camps for all three youths; for perhaps a larger pair of pants for Dad and for Wood Badge training for Mom. This is why I am stating that while the National registration fee is not huge or massive, it IS something I feel that many families can work with and around and still participate in Scouting!! If not, the BSA and their local BSA Council are working on ways to assist them with doing so!
I got other questions too. Like...
"So what will the additional fees cover. Will it go to pay our already overpaid Scout Executives or to pay for the Summit?"
The BSA stated, "Every dollar of membership fees will go to cover the cost of essential services, as well as background checks for adult leaders, program development and training resources, continuously updated youth protection and youth safety training, improved IT/digital experiences and services to councils nationwide." This money does NOT "trickle downward" to pay for local Council executives, your local Council's camps, or to pay for that new Council Service Center.
"So it is going to pay for all of those background checks we're all required to fill out paperwork for, right?"
Again, the BSA answered, "No, the cost of the BSA's background checks is not prompting the fee increase." That was already covered in this year's budget.
The plain, simple, honest truth is that the reason why the increase is because the BSA has exhausted it's "rainy day funding" due to excessive court costs and legal fees incurred for defending the program and the BSA from clients represented by what I call "ambulance chasers -- attorneys at law." You may have seen their ads late night on television, invoking those relatives or victims to "call us NOW! The Boy Scouts have established a fund of several BILLION dollars and are giving it out to those affected by dangerous Scout leaders!" (or something like that...it sounds like my old Scoutmaster is coming out of his grave after my old Scouts and me if we don't call that number NOW!)
The commercials, of course, are very misleading and very much incorrect; but the fact is that they have been effective. Effective enough that the BSA's insurance carriers (they have several) have been cornered, pressured, and frightened enough to jack up the high insurance premiums which the BSA has to pay...and because the BSA has to pay an increase, which as I mentioned earlier already depleted the "rainy day funds" to the point that the BSA HAD to take a drastic, almost last-minute step to correct this!
The BSA's communications and law teams say it a bit better:
"The increase was prompted because the cost of liability insurance the BSA must carry to cover all Scouting activities has increased dramatically over the past several months, and the organization is no longer able to offset the cost of insurance. The fee enables the BSA to continue essential services."
"The BSA recognizes the timing of this fee increase creates challenges as units have already begun collecting fees for their 2020 registration renewal process, and BSA leadership would not make this difficult decision if it were not absolutely necessary. The BSA is committed to supporting its members through this process and is making necessary adjustments to the online rechartering system to ensure units can carry out the recharter process."
"So," several people asked me, "we're paying for the sins of people long gone and whose families won't let it drop. What is the BSA doing to help save or redirect money -- or are they just leaving it on all of us to fix this?"
I feel bad for ANYONE affected by abuse or harm at the hands of my fellow volunteers or our professionals. So does the BSA. This is why the BSA created that strong Youth Protection program back in the late 80s and made it mandatory starting in the 90s, eventually making it a requirement even BEFORE the BSA accepted your application. The BSA leads the nation in curbing youth and adult sexual and physical abuse and is currently working with organizations and groups around our nation to do the same for childhood bullying and cyberbullying attacks. I don't feel that we volunteers and families are "paying for" restitution, but rather, we are paying for the continued growth and protection of youth we're entrusted with and our fellow adult volunteers, employees, and professional managers of our program.
Again, from the BSA: "In addition to ongoing efforts to streamline and simplify the organization, the national organization has taken a number of steps in addressing its financial challenges, including the recent elimination of more than 35 positions at the National Service Center and ongoing consolidation of departments for the most effective utilization of resources in support of Scouting."
"You talk a great game, Mike Walton. I respect that. But the bottom line is that the BSA has raised their fees to a point whereby a lot of families simply will not be able to afford Scouting. They will leave in droves, and the precious program you try to defend each week will eventually go away. "
The Boy Scouts of America WILL survive, friend. Those who want to be a part of Scouting will find a way to be and continue to support our programs. The BSA was well ahead of you and others who feel that this was, I think someone coined it "the final nail in the coffin of the BSA."
I am repeating what I stated earlier from the BSA's statement: "The BSA is committed to ensuring that all youth can experience the character-building benefits of Scouting regardless of their financial situation. In addition to the many existing council and unit membership assistance funds, the BSA has established the donor-funded Growing Future Leaders Fund to provide financial support to those who need it."
If you feel like that family I profiled above; I encourage you to contact your local BSA Council and ask them about this fund or the local Council's fund.
Finally, I wish that I could say "things are going to be better" for the program after the first of the year, but 2020 will bring some financial challenges to the BSA's program. We will continue to be worn down by those who don't like the BSA's changes to make our programs more inclusive, diverse, and in touch with America's youth and their families. They are still living their lives as if we have not moved into the Age of the Nanotech. We are getting closer to living, as I stated in a speech last month, in the time of the Jetsons. While many of us still behave like the Flintstones. George and Fredrick had their passions, their loves, their challenges...and had families who grew up wanting change and adaptability.
The common thing they BOTH desired worked hard for and influenced others within their family and community -- are the VERY SAME THINGS we are asking that family of five to please hang in there, ask for assistance if you need it, and most of all "keep the faith" with.
Fred and George and their families want to be a part of an accepting and warm community. One which accepts the premises of helping others. Of placing themselves to common standards of behavior and living. Those things contained in Scouting -- the Promise or Oath. The "twelve points of living," the Scout Law. It's motto and slogan.
The BSA's national registration fee is an increase. The BSA did it's best to prepare us and then openly told us what the impact will be and how much it will cost. But is it an increase we can live with as we turn toward 2020?
I believe so. I ask of you to please consider to believe that way also.
(The BSA's official discussion of their membership fee increase can be found online at https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2019/10/23/bsa-membership-fee-to-change-beginning-jan-1-2020/ )
[Mike Walton is a retired Army officer, writer, public speaker, and a longtime volunteer, cheerleader, and supporter of the programs of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). He serves as a national, regional, and local Council volunteer in several capacities and is registered with the BSA's Trans-Atlantic Council (TAC), which serves youth and families within thirteen time zones in Europe, Africa, and parts of Eastern Asia. His home is in South Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota.]