York City has been struggling financially for years, and its residents are saddled with by far the highest tax rate in the county.
Officials have had to prioritize to cover the necessities like police and fire coverage, even if that meant doing away with some of the fun events, such as the downtown New Year's Eve celebration.
The city cut funding for the event in last year's budget; it was held only because of the generosity of Sprint, which stepped in at the last minute as a corporate sponsor.
Since city officials are willing to cut one of their own popular events because of the expense, no one should be surprised they expect to be reimbursed for their costs associated with a private event.
City resident Wayne Scott has been sponsoring the Trey and Boo Classic, a free two-day tournament for adults organized in memory of homicide victims Ca-trell "Trey" McCanic and Ricardo "Boo" Banks, for the past two years.
When he recently applied for a permit for this June's tournament, he was surprised to learn the city wants $6,300 to provide police coverage.
Not only that, city officials told Scott he never paid for the coverage at last year's event, so they want that, too.
The organizer will need to pay nearly $13,000 for the event, which in the past has attracted 400 people to the Penn Park courts.
Scott says it's more than he can afford, and he thinks charging him for what should be part of police officers' jobs is out of line.
"This is a good cause," he said. "Don't charge people."
And it is a good cause, with a positive message.
The event is not a fundraiser but is organized through Scott's nonprofit Helping Offer Options & Direction (HOOD). The group has also held anti-violence "Stop the Beef" rallies and raises funds to help children participate in local sports programs.
Even so, the tournament will require extra police coverage -- to keep the peace at the event while also maintaining proper staffing levels through the city.
Someone has to cover that bill, and we don't think it should be city taxpayers.
Scott has requested help from the American Civil Liberties Union, where a senior staff attorney made a good point.
It's not unconstitutional for a city to request reimbursement for a police presence at an event, said Mary Catherine Roper, whose office is investigating Scott's complaint.
If, that is, the police presence is actually necessary and the fee isn't prohibitive.
"The First Amendment is there so everybody gets to use the public space, including poor people," Roper said. "You can just never charge a fee that essentially prohibits people who aren't rich from using public spaces."
We think a police presence at the basketball tournament is necessary, especially, as Mayor Kim Bracey pointed out, for an event held in honor of two homicide victims. The potential for emotional outbursts was raised by the event's organizers before the first Trey and Boo Classic, she said.
But the amount does seem high -- so much so that Scott could reasonably argue it's prohibitive.
Bracey stands by the fee, but said she wants to meet with Scott to come up with a solution.
"I want to sit down and talk with him and see what other avenues we can explore. This is an event that the community has embraced," she said. "Maybe there's other mechanisms in place to try to assist with this."
Let's hope the two sides find some common ground so this popular event can safely continue, but not at the expense of city taxpayers.