New user fees for city's school facilities

There will be no more free ride for many groups and commercial users that want access to New Westminster's school facilities.

On Tuesday the school board approved new user fees and policies that will be applied to anyone a classroom, cafeteria or gymnasium in New West schools. The fees are expected to raise about $75,000 a year, said Janet Grant, the district's director of instruction - student services.

Trustee Casey Cook said the new fees bring New West in line with most other school districts that also charge for the use of their schools.

"We're basically falling into line where almost all other districts and recreation centres already are," said Cook.

Some groups that already operate in partnership with the district, like school sanctioned events or activities and well as youth services programming will continue to be able to use school facilities for free. Non-profit groups that provide programming for children and youth development, like sports programs, Girl Guides and Cadets, will be charged nominal fees as low as $4 an hour to use classrooms or $5.50 for a gym.

Adult sports groups will have to pay $16 an hour to use a gym while for-profit groups doing commercial activities will pay $65.

A fee structure for the film industry was also formalized, with fees for the use of facilities beginning at $2,000 a day, plus preparation and clean up fees, parking lot rentals and even a "school appreciation fee" of $500 "as a thank you for school use."

"We've always negotiated those fees," said Cook of the charges to the film industry. "They're developed now in a more defined way."

In addition, groups using school facilities will have to show they have sufficient liability insurance. They could also incur charges for staffing if someone has to open or close a facility to allow access, as well as fees for the use of equipment like chairs, tables, volleyball or hockey nets. That money will go into a District account to be used to replace equipment at schools.

While some of the new fees caused consternation among the user groups that attended consultation meetings, Cook said the Board had no choice.

"The directive is very clear," he said. "You can't divert education dollars for other uses. You're expected to get fair value for your facilities."

The new fees will come take effect on July 1.


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