District 205 Facility Fee Hike Approved, but the Discussion Isn't Over, Board Members Say
District will evaluate at the end of the 2012-13 school year; also, any savings realized will be passed on to users.
Groups that use Elmhurst District 205 facilities for sports, nonprofit events and other activities will now have to pay higher rental fees to do so.
The fee increases became necessary because the previous fees didn't cover the district's cost to operate the facilities. The district had been subsidizing the cost at the same time teachers were being laid off due to budget constraints. At a previous committee meeting, board President Jim Collins said the district was collecting about half of what it costs to accommodate user groups
Elmhurst District 205 Finance Committee members have been meeting with various user groups for months to try to come up with an equitable fee structure, and a final version was approved Tuesday. The position of the district is to break even, not to make money on user fees, School Board members have repeatedly said.
"I do think this is the right thing to do," board member Maria Hirsch said Tuesday. "We need to spend education dollars on education."
The rental agreement lays out different fees depending on the priority of the group:
- Group A: District 205 schools
- Group B: Elmhurst Park District
- Group C: District 205 Foundation, District 205 PTAs, Scouting groups, booster groups, Special Education Resource Group and Immaculate Conception School (at Hawthorne School only)
- Group D: Elmhurst nonprofits, including YMCA, Elmhurst Airborne, Team Elmhurst, Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Lion's Club, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst American Association of University Women, Elmhurst Children's Theatre, Elmhurst Jaycees, AYSO, Visitation and Immaculate Conception (excluding Hawthorne)
- Group E: nonprofits outside of Elmhurst, including DuPage Symphony Orchestra
- Group F: for-profit groups
One of the biggest changes is the move to an hourly charge from a daily rate. In the past, groups could rent a facility for a day and only used it for a couple of hours, effectively blocking out any other groups from using the space.
Separate charges will be levied for supervision, security, custodial costs and equipment for certain groups. A security fee is built in to user fees at all York High School locations, and a $15 security fee will be added to groups of more than 50 people who use the elementary schools. Also, cancellations must be made a month in advance to avoid a charge.
Groups A, B and C are not charged an hourly usage fee, but Groups B and C will be charged for custodial overtime. Group C also will be charged for use of district equipment. Groups D, E and F incur the most expenses.
The hourly usage fees agreed upon are as follows:
|Rental Area||Hourly Fee|
|York forum room||$20|
|K-5 gym/multipurpose room||$5|
|Middle school kitchen/cafeteria||$15|
|York Field House||$30 ($70 with air conditioning)|
|York Campbell gym||$20|
|York south gym||$20|
|York High Commons||$25|
|York Black Box Theatre||$25|
|York Aquatic Center||$40|
|District conference rooms||$20|
The full user agreement, including all charges and fees, can be found here on Board Docs, the district's e-governance website.
Not everyone is happy about the charges.
Dan Harrington has three kids who attend Hawthorne and Sandburg, and all three are swimmers with Elmhurst Swim Team. They also play club sports, like soccer, baseball and softball.
"They use a lot of the facilities," he said.
As long as those clubs are made up of at least 75 percent Elmhurst taxpayers, they should be given a higher priority and a lower cost, he said.
"Group B or C would be more appropriate for these club teams," he said.
Andriani Siavelis has three daughters in middle school, and she said she fully supports rate increases for outside users.
"Students come first," she said.
But water polo and swimming groups are "being singled out," she said.
"When you have fees so much higher for rental, certain clubs won't be able to sustain themselves," she said. "I don't think that's fair to the students or the community. I would like you to reconsider the way the fees are set. Look into it a little more so we don't lose great clubs."
Finance Committee Chairman Chris Blum said it has been a very difficult process.
"This was not a decision taken lightly," he said before the board vote. "We understand this has a significant impact on many families in Elmhurst and many District 205 kids. The issue is our costs."
Board member Jim Collins pointed out that the district set up its first fee structure in 1982, and fees were not raised again until 2010, but that was only a "marginal" increase.
"This would have been an easier pill to swallow had the fees kept pace with the actual costs," Collins said.
Board members agreed that communication will be ongoing with the user groups, and at the end of the school year, the results of the fee increases will be re-examined.
"We pledge to continue the discussion," Blum said, adding if the district finds ways to save money, it will pass that savings on to users.
"This is not the end of the discussion," he said.