SD20 keeps new rental fee structure, amidst push-back from local groups

“I would say compared to what it costs to rent a gym anywhere else, we're still a fantastic deal.” ~ Greg Luterback, School District 20

The bottom line outweighed a couple letters of concern when school trustees pushed through a facility rental fee policy that didn’t cut non-profits a break.

Even with a soft spot for Special Olympics Trail, School District 20 couldn’t turn a blind eye to the fact that current rental revenues didn’t cover the hard costs associated with renting out its facilities. And as a result, the board has sustained its decision to up its hourly rental price tag (from $20 to $40 for the gym) and terminate its generous fee waiver process.

The newly revised facility rental rates will be kept until the board can hold a special committee of the whole meeting for further review, it was decided at the board of education’s last regular meeting.

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

Previously, groups could apply for waivers and exemption of fees based on a formula. The board was cutting costs by 50 per cent to 100 per cent if users were non-profit 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.

“You were waiving darn near everything,” superintendent of schools Greg Luterbach told the board. “I would say compared to what it costs to rent a gym anywhere else, we’re still a fantastic deal.”

The board did some market research before coming up with new prices. While the new fee structure may fall in line with today’s standards, the sudden jump still doesn’t sit well for Ben Postmus, coordinator for the local Special Olympics. He waits to find out whether the group’s hockey program will be in jeopardy.

“We do not charge a fee for athletes to take part in our programs simply because for the most part they do not have the dollars to spend on exercise or recreation,” he wrote the board. “We rely on fundraising to run all of our programs, providing equipment and competition opportunities in other communities in the West Kootenay and Okanagan.”

They use the Trail Middle School gym every Tuesday night for an hour and a half and without the removal waiver, the group will have to come up with $60 per session from September until May.

John D’Arcangelo added his voice to those protesting the “sharp” increase. He coordinates weekly floor hockey at the same location for two hours from October to June. Last year, the group paid $20 per night compared to this year’s $80 price tag. The new cost equates to an anticipated $2,400, far more than the $600 paid last year.

“I believe we should be encouraging our students to keep fit and off the streets by making these excellent facilities available at a very low cost,” he noted in a letter to the board. “On the other hand, I know there are costs involved in maintaining and cleaning these facilities and believe users should help pay.”

That was the sentiment amongst trustees, who battled back and forth over the subject.

“I just think that when we decided on this it wasn’t really thought out well on what to do so I think we need to go over it and see what we can do,” trustee Terry Hanik said at the board meeting. “To say just no waivers to a group like the Olympic one just doesn’t make sense.”

Trustee Mickey Kinakin agreed.

“The handicap already have a huge load on them,” he added. “We do not need to pile on another one.”

Representatives tossed around the idea of a hardship policy but soon realized that was basically what previously was in place. Then they entertained the idea of just taking care of the two groups that wrote in but the bandaid fix wasn’t going to solve the larger problem of breaking even on facility rentals in the district.

“I would caution the board to start amending at every single opportunity, where every letter that we get we do a custom solution,” trustee Gord Smith said. “Obviously we want to assist groups but I think we’re starting to go down a path that makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Changes to the rental policy surfaced when it made the “long list” as a potential budget item in March. The trustees briefly reviewed the rental policy, which states rentals are to be at no extra cost to the board and that rates are set annually. The board’s rates have remained stagnant for many years, beyond an added $30 administration fee tacked on in 2013. The estimated $10,000 rental revenue line also became part of the “administrative savings” submission to the Ministry of Education when SD20 was tasked with finding about $210,500 in administrative savings for the 2015/16 budget cycle, which will punch up to nearly $392,000 come next year.

Under the new rental rate structure, the board currently has an estimated $17,000 in billable rentals for September until December of this year.

Rates effective Sept. 1, 2015Classroom    $25/hr M-F    $25/hr to max $150 weekendsLibrary    $25/hr M-F    $25/hr to max $150 weekendsCafeteria    $25/hr M-F    $25/hr to max $150 weekendsKitchen    $40/hr    M-F    $25/hr to max $150 weekendsGymnasium    $40/hr    M-F    $25/hr to max $150 weekends

Previous rates

Administrative Fee    $30 per rentalClassroom    $25 flat rate    $50 flat rate weekendsLibrary    $25 flat rate    $50 flat rate weekendsCafeteria    $25 flat rate    $50 flat rate weekendsCaf w/Kitchen    $50 flat rate    $100 flat rate weekends  $20/hrGymnasium    $100 max    four hr min at $40/hr to $200/day max $20/hrComputer Rm    $100 max    four hr min at $40/hr to $200/day max (plus extra custodial costs if required)