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Fees for use of buildings debated

Published September 07. 2011 05:01PM

Could organizations be charged for the use of buildings, facilities and equipment in the Palmerton Area School District?

The matter was deliberated at great length as part of a 3-hour workshop meeting that was held prior to the start of a special school board meeting.

At the crux of the debate is whether the board wants to consider revisions to Policy 707: Use of school buildings, facilities and equipment.

Superintendent Carol Boyce told the board it was their task to decide whether it wanted to charge a fee, to whom, how much, and whether it should be a variable fee.

"There was a pretty universal feeling that we needed to clarify and define some things," Boyce said. "During [last] budget season, it was a topic of discussion that we needed to be able to offset expense with some revenue; not looking to make a profit, but to have people help to pay the expenses if they were going to use the building."

Boyce said there are several distinct differences between the existing policy and the new draft.

"The new draft is more thorough, and defines the activities permitted and not permitted, defines the various groups of users, specifies what all of the processes are for seeking to use the buildings and facilities," she said. "I believe they do not to want to charge a fee, but they want to charge for the labor costs of personnel who would be on duty."

Boyce said what that means is that if the district already has custodial staff on duty for a weeknight function, then there would be no charge. In the event an activity would take place on Saturdays and Sundays - days when the district does not have custodians on site - that's when organizations would have to help with the costs, she said.

"I will make the revisions in the draft that the board discussed last night, that will then be sent to them before our Sept. 20 board meeting to go as a first reading of the policy," Boyce said. "If they have any changes to make, they could make them that night, and we could then incorporate them for the October workshop, read for second time and be adopted at the October board meeting."

Boyce noted that the district has reduced 22-percent of its custodial hours as per this year's budget.

Resident Nicki Frank told the board "you need youth sports as much as we need the facilities."

Tiffani Christman, president of the Palmerton Youth Wrestling Cheerleading Association, reminded the board that it was the Save Our Sports Committee that was instrumental in the reinstitution of athletic programs in this year's budget.

School board candidate Charles Gildner said a decision to charge organizations a fee would be the equivalent of him taking money from his daughter's piggy bank.

Also on Tuesday, the board held discussion on a potential alternative graduation site.

Boyce said that since the high school stadium will not be available for graduation, the district has inquired with Penn's Peak.

The consensus of the board was that Penn's Peak would be a feasible alternative, but only if members of this school year's graduation class agreed to it.

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