School Board Revisits Facility Use Fee Increase

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The Port Washington Board of Education met on Aug. 8 for its regular monthly meeting, but opened discussion to the board on the nonprofit organization facility use fee increase from $10 to $20 per child. President of the board of education Karen Sloan explained that the board decided to revisit the increase after having heard from Girl Scout troop leaders at the July 10 meeting and receiving comments and concerns from other organizations.

“We had not increased the fees for over five years,” explained Sloan. “The purpose of these fees are to offset the costs of maintaining our facilities, any disrepair, any kind of upkeep. Because of the tax cap levy, we have to be mindful of anything we spend and increasing the cost to our community, so this was a way to try to offset those costs by just charging the people who use it so we are able to maintain our facilities the way we need to.”

“The reason this came up was because we did not have a turf field and we did ask the community for a large chunk of money to put those fields in and so we don’t want to see anything happen to them,” said trustee Larry Greenstein.

Sloan explained that multiple issues had been brought to the board’s attention including the fact that some organizations, like the Girl Scouts, utilize indoor facilities right after school that doesn’t require any additional costs or upkeep to the school while other organizations that use the athletic fields bring wear and tear to the turf. Also up for discussion was the fact that families may have more than one child participating in an organization that will be charged the fee, so a family with three children could potentially be paying $20 per child at a total cost of $60.

“I’m one of those families that’s going to be hit with one of these fees for three children soon to be four children,” said trustee Rachel Gilliar. “I have a lot of sympathy for the fact that it adds up for a lot of families here, but I think it’s really important that we note that this policy was never meant to make money on the backs of the community. It was to make sure we were covering our costs to provide the facilities to the community.”

After discussing the increase, Sloan explained that the board would keep the fee at $10 for organizations that use select indoor school facilities directly after school for a certain amount of time, however, the issue would be further discussed at the next policy meeting. As for other organizations such as athletics, the board decided to roll back the fee to $15 per child with an increase every few years to continue to offset the school’s increasing costs to be determined at an upcoming policy meeting as well.

“For this coming year, we can talk about some kind of analysis on what we are using the money toward,” said Sloan. “I know in the gyms we replace basketball nets frequently. On the fields, we have to replace lacrosse and soccer nets, so we have some idea to give the community where we are putting this money. We had spoken to [Assistant Superintendent of Business Mary] Callahan not specifically earmarking but have an overall picture of the money.”

Community members, including Port Summer Show board member Michael Siskin and representative from Port Soccer Club Edward Romero, spoke about the increase.

“We also try to make sure that everybody can afford [Port Summer Show],” said Siskin. “For cast members the fee is already fairly high and for crew members they’re spending the summer working. It’s kind of hard to ask them to spend more. We also, every year, have been paying a damages deposit so any maintenance we have been causing has been paid for. We pay a fee for the custodians, we pay a fee for the facilities so it seems we have already paid for a number of things you are concerned about.”

“The fee raises are actually going to be detrimental to our club specifically,” said Romero. “One reason why is that we do have a large number of scholarships almost $30,000 per season. My concern is that these scholarship kids might get priced out and we may not be able to afford to have them play soccer.”

Sloan expressed that both the Port Summer Show and Port Soccer Club can further discuss the concerns with the board in the next policy meeting, for which a date has not been set.

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