LAUSD plans to charge for use of school grounds
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre “The involvement of the focus group stakeholders helped us come to these recommendations that the superintendent has implemented,” said Tim Bower, director of Beyond the Bell, which oversees after-school programs at LAUSD. “This was the result of listening to the community and developing the very best plan we could.” While some groups will be exempt, most will fall into two for-pay categories, depending on whether they can show they serve LAUSD students. Groups will either be charged $10 an hour for use of facilities or $25.50 an hour – in addition to a $5 daily charge and a $77.10 permit valid for four months. To determine which fee category applies to different groups, the school district is developing a questionnaire to assess whether groups are within the district’s boundaries and serve its students. LAUSD is one of the few school districts that doesn’t charge for use of its facilities, which it says costs the district about $3.8million a year for utilities, maintenance and other costs. Hundreds of nonprofit youth groups in the San Fernando Valley and across the city will have to pay to use LAUSD facilities and athletic fields starting in March. Saying the Los Angeles Unified School District’s lean financial outlook requires the move, Superintendent David BrewerIII will institute a three-tiered fee structure to offset annual facilities costs of $3.8million. The move comes just two years after district officials abandoned similar efforts after a broad public outcry that it could force youth groups to cancel thousands of worthwhile after-school events. LAUSD officials said the final fee structure was the result of meetings with representatives of various organizations and is in line with fees charged by the city as well as other school districts. Katheryn Friedman, manager of civic center permits, said a survey of about 15 surrounding school districts showed that even the $25.50-an-hour charge is a competitive rate. “Everyone charges but L.A. Unified,” Friedman said. But nonprofits argue that the fees are too high for their tight budgets and that they will be forced to pass on the costs to parents of children in the groups. Drew Bracken, vice president of Northridge City Little League – which has about 650 youths on 50 teams that each practice up to four hours a week – said the charges are excessive. The league will have to pay at least $2,000 a week for its 12-week season. “I don’t think it’s right. We’re a nonprofit organization doing our best to keep kids active, keep kids focused, keep kids making good decisions,” he said. “And what are our tax dollars going for? “At the end of the day, it’s going to come back to the parents who are going to have to pay this fee. “My question to L.A. Unified is, `Where is the breakdown of what our taxes go toward?”‘ Under the final plan, the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts as well as parent-teacher associations – who use indoor facilities – will be exempt from charges. The Girl Scouts of the San Fernando Valley, which launched a fierce campaign opposing the fees and appealed to school board member Tamar Galatzan, said the group will be able to continue using LAUSD facilities for meetings. “If we had had to pay fees, it would have bankrupted the troops that meet there,” said Melanie Merians, chief development officer for the Girl Scouts of the San Fernando Valley. At best, the average troop has an annual budget of about $800, she said. “I really understand that the budget needs to be balanced, but I don’t think doing it on the backs of the girls is how you’re supposed to do it,” Merians said. “I feel really appreciative that the school district agreed that groups like the Girl Scouts would not be appropriate to charge. We just don’t have that kind of money.” Galatzan – who appealed directly to the LAUSD after-school program department in the wake of a group’s opposition – said she thinks the final plan is fair. She said groups that use the athletic fields and cause wear and tear will be charged a reasonable amount, and those that use classrooms or library space will pay less. “The plan that the district came up with really was the best we could do during the budget crunch,” Galatzan said. “I’m glad that common sense ruled the day at L.A. Unified. Providing after-school meeting space for community groups that work with our kids is too important.” The LAUSD issues about 2,850 permits annually to youth organizations. The district’s facilities are used about 55,000 times during the course of a year. Bower said the district cannot yet predict how much the new fees will bring in because it’s unclear how many organizations will continue to use district facilities and which categories they will fall into. The deadline is Jan. 15 to apply for permits for the first four-month period, which begins in March.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!