‘Not in the facility rental business’ | SummitDaily.com

‘Not in the facility rental business’

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Questions about the fairness of Summit School District facility fees arose at a recent Board of Education meeting.

Sandy Greenhut, chair of Arts for the Summit ( an organization of 23 nonprofit cultural groups) questioned, among other things, whether local taxpayers received a better deal for facility rentals than out-of-town users.

Greenhut claimed that by paying fees for use, locals were being “double-taxed.”

Specifically, Greenhut questioned whether Sera School’s new Summit County branch should be charged the same rates as the Arts for the Summit organization. Sera Schools is a music school that started in Eagle and Mesa counties and now has a few Summit County local teachers renting classroom space to teach after-school lessons. It’s not a school district event, Julie McCluskie clarified.

McCluskie, the climate and communications coordinator for Summit School District, said facility fees are necessary to prevent taxpayers from covering events and activities outside of the public education charge: to provide free and quality education to students pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

“We are not in the facility rental business,” she said. “Taxes are meant to keep classrooms and school available and useful to students and teachers.”

However, school district personnel recognize the school buildings are public buildings and should be open to public use.

She said a fee schedule is in place to guide facilities manager Woody Bates in determining use rates.

Priority 1 users receive free facility space. It’s meant for district-sanctioned activities and extracurricular activities as well as other activities that include all students or relate specifically to district operations.

Priority 2 is a discounted fee schedule (for example, $5 per hour for classrooms and the gym) for local organizations that are “servicing and involving youth in the community,” McCluskie said. She added that both Arts for the Summit and Sera Schools fall into this category, as do approximately 80 percent of facility users.

“It’s a small amount in place to cover energy costs and staff usage so taxpayers are not paying for something outside of public education,” McCluskie said. The intent is not to make money on facility fees, she added.

Greenhut said an Arts for the Summit “Nutcracker” performance is being moved to Keystone’s Warren Station because “it is not financially feasible to hold it in the Summit County schools with all the hoops you make us jump through.”

McCluskie acknowledged Priority 2 fees include a higher fee for auditorium use, which can add up with rehearsals and technical rentals. The higher fee is to protect the auditorium’s high-tech equipment and to help pay for staff to operate the equipment.

There is also a Priority 3 level, which often includes organizations outside the county or those holding events not district-related or directly beneficial to students. Priority 3 users pay full price for facility use ($25 per hour for classrooms; $55 per hour for the high school gym).

The priority system was put in place in November 2008, McCluskie said. Greenhut had raised questions about an established “profit” and “nonprofit” rate, which she said Arts for the Summit members had worked for two years to establish. McCluskie said such language was in place at one point, but was dismissed in favor of the new system. She said the new system is more appropriate because it focuses on how the facility use benefits students.

For more information, call Julie McCluskie at (970) 368-1013 or Woody Bates at (970) 368-1050.

SDN reporter Janice Kurbjun can be contacted at (970) 668-4630 or at jkurbjun@summitdaily.com.

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