New rental policy cut in half this year: school district

"OK we understand that argument so we’ll cut the fee in half this year but for the coming year, we’re going to the full rate.” ~ SD20

The school board is giving local groups a break by cutting a new rental fee rate structure in half for this year alone.

After rental revenues didn’t cover the hard costs associated with renting out its facilities, SD20’S Board of Education upped its facility rental price tag and terminated its generous fee waiver process this fall.

But after careful consideration of non-profits scrambling to find new money to cover the sudden jump, a committee of the whole reviewed the new policy and softened the news at Monday night’s regular school board meeting.

Rather than charging renters $150 to use SD20 space (class, library, cafeteria, gym or computer room) per day or $25 an hour, the board has decided to ask for half of the original amount — $75 per day and $12.50 an hour for this year.

“The criticism was that it came kind of out of the blue to all these organizations, that they didn’t have enough time to plan for it, and the ones running programs would have to jack up their prices,” said Darrel Ganzert, board chair. “We said, ‘OK we understand that argument so we’ll cut the fee in half this year but for the coming year, we’re going to the full rate.’”

But not after much debate at the board table, where some trustees like Mickey Kinakin didn’t like the “blanket order” and preferred a review board that dealt with applications as they rolled in. And trustee Mark Wilson questioned the board’s collective voice, one that couldn’t stick to a policy that brought in revenue but sold schools for a buck.

Previously, groups could apply for waivers and exemption of fees based on a formula, which led to the board cutting costs by 50 per cent to 100 per cent if users were nonprofit or supported school-aged kids. The former process resulted in most renters paying nothing to utilize a district space except for a one-time $30 annual administration fee.

“Costs are estimated at $12,000, whereas revenues were on average $2,000 to $3,600,” Natalie Verigin, secretary-treasurer previously explained to the board. “The revenues are low because of the generous fee waiver process.”

As a result, the board decided it needed to recoup the $10,000.

“The criticism we’re hearing is that taxpayers pay for that building, and people are absolutely right, taxpayers did pay for it, just like they paid for the upkeep of the Cominco arena, the aquatic centre, the complex in Castlegar and nobody gets those for free,” added Ganzert.