Despite claims of coercion, the school board decided Monday night to leave in place fees it charges clubs and organizations to use school facilities.
That means private clubs, like Club Payson volleyball, will still have to pay to use the high school gym for practice. However, the district’s updated policy would allow the club to pay with new equipment instead of cash.
Superintendent Ron Hitchcock praised the policy, saying it is a win-win for everyone. The school gets new equipment it could not otherwise afford and the team gets a great facility to work in.
Not all of the school board members agreed. Board member Barbara Shepherd said she and fellow board member Kim Pound were concerned that some of the fees were still too high, such as $750 to use the football stadium.
Furthermore, she objected to the decision to revisit the issue of fees Monday when Pound was absent. “You knew Kim wouldn’t be here tonight,” she said. Shepherd added that it felt like a set-up because the rest of the board would vote to keep the fees.
The board on Oct. 9 tabled the issue of fees after a split vote. Shepherd and Pound voted against the current fee policy while Rory Huff and Barbara Underwood wanted to leave the fee schedule alone.
On Monday with board member Matt Van Camp back and Pound gone, Shepherd said it was clear the policy would get approved since Van Camp “always votes with Barbara (Underwood).”
Underwood denied any such plan.
Van Camp said he was offended by the allegation. “I am not going to table it just because Barbara wants to insult me and think that I vote the way of you guys. I have some concerns about this also,” he said.
Chiefly, Van Camp asked if the policy gives Hitchcock enough wiggle room to alter the fee schedule. “Our role is to make policy, not to run the school district. That is why we have Ron,” he said. “We need to give our superintendent the flexibility to operate our schools without us having to discuss the fees every time someone doesn’t like the fee.”
Van Camp was referring to Trevor Creighton, who on Sept. 24 complained to the board that the $1,000 monthly fee Club Payson had paid for use of the gym last year for practice was outrageous.
Van Camp said the school board had done a lot of research before implementing facility fees. “The fees are fair,” he said.
Furthermore, Underwood said the district had worked with Club Payson and struck a deal so it could provide new equipment like nets and balls for use of the gym.
“I think as much of it was a shock because we hadn’t raised rates in so long, but I really think that for the most part it is working out,” she said. “I would personally just like to leave it (the policy in place).”
Huff agreed, saying the district had done a lot of research on what other schools charge.
“We have to remember these facilities’ primary purpose is for the education of our youth,” he said. “We have to cover our costs and if we start supplementing these other activities we are taking away from the education of our kids.”
Hitchcock added that the policy gives him the authority to alter the rate schedule.
It states that a person, group or organization can contribute goods or render services as full or partial payment of the user fee.
Hitchcock said that clause had been used about four times since he started with the district this year. “All have been win-win.” The district implemented facility fees to help cover costs after extensive budget cuts.
Last year, the district-wide expenses for sports and other extracurricular activities totaled $861,000, but revenue from student fees and ticket sales for sports and extra-curricular activities was only $141,500. Total donation to the district added up to about $700,000, according to Cathy Manning, with school finance.