Danedri Thompson
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School board members tabled a plan to increase facility usage fees and make changes to USD 231’s usage policy on June 11.
Gary Diener, director of operations, said the goal of the proposed changes is to ensure that the usage system is fair and equitable.
One change would see fees increased for usage of school facilities on the weekends. Diener said opening the buildings when they’re not already in use costs the school district.
Board member Mary Herbert asked to table the proposed changes. She served on a committee that included school officials and parks and recreation staff in the early 2000s.
She said at that time, the school used city facilities all of the time, and the city did not charge the district.
“We made an agreement. You don’t charge us, and we won’t charge you,” she explained. “…You have to realize that we used everything they had. We had nothing.”
Since that time, the district has built numerous new facilities.
Gardner Parks and Recreation activities are frequent users of the school facilities.
Jeff Stewart, parks and recreation director, said the city does provide services and the use of facilities to the school district.
“We are a little unique compared to most of the other outside groups that use school facilities, and we’re obviously serving the same population, too,” Stewart said.
The proposal would charge lower rates for most city programs.
Stewart said the parks department uses the gymnasiums quite often for youth and adult basketball and volleyball programs.
“We would have some new expenses specifically related to our weekend use,” Steward said.
However, he said the impact to the parks and recreation budget would be minimal.
The city would not be charged for usage on weekdays. Typically, the youth teams use school facilities for practices on weeknights. Games are on weekends.
Stewart said the school district and the city have a great working relationship.
“I believe that will continue whether the proposed changes pass or not,” Stewart said.
On June 11, school board members, in a rare split vote, agreed to table the proposed changes. Members Ron Ragan and Mike McNulty opposed tabling the proposal.
In other business, board members:
• agreed to renew dental insurance policies for next year with no increase.
• Approved the renewal of health insurance policy with a 6.5 percent increase
• Approved a contract with PSI for construction services and special inspection services related to new school construction.