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Turlock coaches voice concerns over proposed Facility Use Fee

Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees President Frank Lima described the annual review of the District’s Facility Use Fees perfectly when he called it a “hot button item every year,” as a number of athletic coaches gathered at the Tuesday meeting to vocalize their unease on one particular aspect of the proposal.

One coach in attendance was Pitman High School Athletic Director Dave Walls, who stood before the Board to oppose the Facility Use Fee that would be applied to school-related groups and teams that are out of season or not under the umbrella of the California Interscholastic Federation.

 “I would ask that you give great thought to placing additional costs on the athletic teams and extracurricular groups,” said Walls. “We have many programs, clubs, teams that participate and represent Turlock high schools at the local, state and national level and the competition requires a financial investment.

“It would seem to me to be a burden to add an additional cost to an already daunting financial responsibility already undertaken by so many who represent our community. We want our programs to be able to compete at a level field and an increased cost would not allow our programs to do that,” continued Walls.

Each year, TUSD receives approximately 360 facility use applications and of those applications, there are approximately 4,500 scheduled events, or an average of over 12 events per applications.

“All of our facilities have to be accounted for and protected for our students, yet they are also eligible for use through the Civic Center Act,” said Smith.

Pursuant to the Civic Center Act, Smith said that the District does have certain required fees, including charging the maximum direct cost when church or religious organizations want to have religious services, as well as charging an even higher fair rental value for entertainment or meetings where admission is charged or contributions are solicited without a direct benefit to pupils or charities.

“In other words, they’re doing it for profit,” said Smith.

Smith said that one of the concepts that TUSD is attempting to implement at this time is dealing with the issue of school-related organizations. He said a school district governing board may elect to discount direct cost fees based on the type and category of applicant, including but not limited to those with tax-exempt status.

Smith said his recommendation for school-related groups and organizations not to be charged a Facility Use Fee based on the District’s review include parent-teacher associations, academic programs, school-community advisory committees, site-based student clubs, and booster clubs and foundations.

“Those would be the groups that we would place in the category of no charge based on their direct relationship to school-based operations and school-based support,” said Smith.

Another case that TUSD must take into consideration is academic and athletic programs that extend into the off-season or not during the academic school year.

“That created some awkward positions for us,” said Smith. “Many of the athletic organizations have not been charged a fee even though they are separated and distinct from the District.”

In trying to come up with a system, Smith said that the District worked with its legal counsel to create a group that would be titled, “Non-Turlock Unified School District Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Activity.” They would be charged a Facility Use Fees based on the lowest amount possible amount

The following criteria was proposed to define an organization in this group as an organization that sponsors activities off-season that normally occur during the academic year, including academic testing programs, aquatics, art, band, baseball, basketball, cheerleading, dance, debate, football, golf, performing arts, tennis, track, volleyball and water polo. Other qualifying groups include an activity that is managed by a District employee acting outside the scope and duties of TUSD employment, or an activity that is subject to an independent chartering organization.

Smith proposed four Facility Use Fee schedules, including a District Employee Expense for Non-TUSD Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Activity organizations, 70 percent of Direct Costs for all other organizations, 100 percent direct costs for religious services and 100 percent fair market value for admission charged and not benefitting TUSD students.

Tuesday’s agenda item was strictly informational. The Board will return at a later date to decide whether or not they want to approve the proposal.

“I’m kind of hearing everyone say the same thing, which is that we are committed to the 14,000 kids in this District and we need to do everything we can to accommodate those kids,” said Lima.