The school board approves, 3-2, raising cost of renting school facilities
By WILLIAM SNOWDEN
At a school board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16, a new policy on the use of facilities was approved that sees a steep rise in the cost of renting school facilities.
Superintendent of Schools Bobby Pearce said the policy was prompted by concerns that some individuals were using school facilities to run a business.
The school board voted 3-2 to approve the change: Chair Cale Langston, and school board members Josh Brown and Melisa Taylor voted for; Eddie Hand and Laura Lawhon voted against.
At a workshop on the issue back on Jan. 10, district HR supervisor Lori Sandgren explained that district staff had contacted eight or nine area counties to get an idea of their facilities policy and rates.
Under the policy that was approved, there are different tiers with different rates. Tier 1 is a school-sponsored club or team which does not have to pay rental or insurance fees.
Tier 2 is for non-profits and would pay a reduced fee. For example, the school auditorium or gym would cost $100 an hour plus $53.33 for utilities.
Tier 3 would be for any other user and would require a copy of liability insurance, minimum of $1 million, and rental fees for the high school auditorium of $395.85 for 5 hours pluss fees for custodians at one and a half times the employees hourly rate.
Athletic fields at the high school would be rented at $1,000 for 5 hours plus custodians.
School board member Josh Brown commented at the workshop that the issue isn’t the fault of the district – he said the county built the rec park 40 years ago and it was big enough then, but as the county has grown the rec park hasn’t. Brown said he asked some organizations upset about the changes in school rentals why they don’t use the county’s community center and said he was told because there’s lots of rules and it’s expensive.
The issue drew lots of concern on social media, but only three citizens attended the workshop – and none attended or spoke at the meeting where it was adopted.
At the workshop, one parent, Tracy Swain, said she has two daughters who play volleyball at a cost of $145. That cost would double under the new policy.
Superintendent Pearce told Swain that it was likely the volleyball team could be drawn in as a Tier 1 group under the school, and said the best thing was to talk to the coach and principal.
Jessica Johnson of the rec park’s football association addressed concerns about renting the J.D. Jones Stadium for the league’s Super Bowl. Last year the group paid $900 to rent the stadium. Under the new policy, it would go up to $1,900.
School board member Josh Brown suggested working with the county’s recreation department for the event, which would then result in no charges under the district’s interlocal agreement with the county.
Brown also brought up the issue of not implementing the change right away, to allow groups affected by the change time to finish their season. That was not brought up at the meeting when the school board voted to approve.
After the meeting, school board member Laura Lawhon said she saw the increase as too much for parents to bear. She noted the original policy was passed in 2003 and should be reviewed more frequently than 20 years.