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Saline Schools Reconsider Rental Fees After Hearing From Scouting Groups

Scouting leaders say the hourly $10 charge would force the groups to find new meeting places.

The Saline Area Schools district may reconsider a plan to increase facility rental rates after hearing presentations from representatives of local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops.

At its July meeting, as part of the effort to raise revenue and spare further cutbacks in the classroom, the Board of Education approved Community Education’s plan to raise facility rental rates. Although the new structure charges non-profit groups at a lower rate—the Scouts are being asked to pay $10 an hour—it’s still too much for the Scouts, according to four people who spoke to the board at Tuesday night's meeting.

Russ Brown, a leader in the Boy Scouts, said his troop uses classrooms for meeting five times a week.

“That doesn’t sound like a much, but it’s $50 a week, every week, for the entire school year. It would wipe out our entire budget,” said Brown.

During the meeting, Brown asked the board to re-evaluate the rates to better distinguish between for-profit and non-profit groups. If that was not possible, he asked that the rates be delayed for a year so that organizations like the Scouts find the finances to pay for the facilities.

Kathy Van Buren, representing area Girl Scout troops, said that 30 different troops use school facilities for meetings. She said that unlike some non-profits with paid staff, the local Girl Scouts organizations are completely volunteer-based.

“We have no revenue except for what we make selling Girl Scout cookies. It’s not possible for Girl Scouts to pay these rates. It’s not possible this year, next year or any year,” said Van Buren.

Van Buren said she was glad to see the district is looking at raising revenues, but she said charging the scouts to use classrooms for meetings may harm the local Girl Scouts organization, which is among the strongest in the region.

Upon learning about the new costs, the Girl Scouts contacted organizations in the community about using space for meetings. Van Buren said the Fifth Corner, Senior Center, churches, United Auto Workers, and Lodi Township all offered free use of their space. Moving is problematic, she said, because Scouts meetings are held right after school.

Scout leader Kim Friedman told the board that transporting Scouts to one of the new locations or having the meetings at different times would likely make life more difficult for volunteer leaders and hurt the Scouts’ ability to recruit. She reminded the board of all the work Scouts do for the schools and the community.

“As an organization, we’ve never asked for anything and we always give back when asked,” Friedman said. “Now we are asking.”

Her nine-year-old daughter, Sydney, also asked the board to reconsider.

“I sold 200 boxes of cookies last year. There is no way I could sell anymore,” she said before asking why the Girl Scouts would need to pay to use the building when the latchkey program is already in the building, using electricity.

After the public comment, the board amended its agenda to discuss the matter.

Superintendent Scot Graden noted that that there was a different fee structure for three different classes of renters, and that the Scouts paid the cheapest rate.

“Our fees stack up, relative to our peers and beyond. Charging Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (to use facilities) is becoming the standard in Washtenaw County,” Graden said, adding that he’d like to turn the rental fee issue back to Community Education for further study.

Trustee Craig Hoeft requested that non-profits be given free access to the classrooms.

“The gym and cafeteria—those are money makers for the district. But for the classrooms, I’d like to take another look at those,” he said.

Trustee David Friese suggested non-profit service organizations be exempt from the new fee structure. Trustee Todd Carter suggested that non-profit groups who contribute to the schools through service projects be given a waiver from the fee. Trustee Lisa Slawson suggested the Community Education Director Brian Puffer meet with the Scouts councils to come up with a solution.

Another option, Friese said, is to apply for a CARES grant to offset rental costs.

Graden said the board would have the opportunity to take up the issue at its meeting Sept. 13.

David Zimmer August 10, 2011 at 08:54 PM
It is unfortunate that our Board did not spend the time in July to understand the impact of this fee change before voting for the increase in fees. This is just another example where our Board has supported the concept of just passing on expenses to the community rather than doing the due diligence necessary for developing effective solutions for our community that did not cost the community more money. For too many years our Board has been the rubber stamp for incomplete proposals, and as Board President Mr. Friese was instrumental in making this rubber stamp a routine matter. Hopefully the people involved will look at more creative solutions such as a barter system of community service for the school district in exchange for use of our facilities. This seems like a win - win scenerio for all involved. I know as a parent of a Eagle Scout and a spouse of a Girl Scout leader and father of a Girl Scout, these kids spend hours helping our community, seems like some recognition for this work is reasonable. Hopefully the people involved will do the due dilligence in the future to avoid these type of unnecessary issues in our community.
Susan Lossing August 11, 2011 at 01:35 AM
What they need to consider is why they have 2 Assistant Principle at the High School, we have a class B school and with not quiet even 2000 students and we don't need 2 Assistant Principle's. I went to a Class A school, when I was 12th grade we have over 3,500 students in the school and only 1 Assistant Priciple and that school district still only has 1 Assistant Principle, we have no need for 2 at any time but especially not now with budget concerns.
Aaron Mukerjee August 11, 2011 at 02:03 PM
Ms. Lossing, Just as an update, one of the 2 Asst. Principles at the HS has been re-assigned as an elementary school principal under the new budget.
Karen Brown August 11, 2011 at 04:50 PM
I am a proud parent of a girl scout who just completed her girl scout silver award project. She spent nearly 60 hours refurbishing the rose garden at Rentschler farm. She asked for no funds from the anyone to do this project; she sought out funds from local businesses and earned the remainder of the necessary funds--nearly $300-- selling cookies and working at concession stands. She did this for the community to enjoy and the improvement of our city. The garden is now a beautiful addition to the farm and replaces an overgrow weed patch with a rusty broken down fence. Before we look at simple fixes for our budget woes, we really need to look at those programs using the schools facilities after hours and the great things they are doing in our community. They are learning much more valuable lessons in these programs than can be learned in the classroom alone during school hours. Karen Brown
david holden August 12, 2011 at 02:17 PM
It is unfortunate we are stooping so low that we are now dinging the pockets of Scout troops to gin up money. For years volleyball, softball, baseball, and basketball travel teams have been charged for facility use. The policy should be common sense, if Saline students are involved in an activity there should be no charge. Mr. Friese offers only a bureaucrat solution chasing CARES dollars. So parents who have paid their taxes now have to apply to get the taxes so their children can use facilities that they paid for???? The root cause is the broken financial model of the District. Wait for the numbers from Lansing, scramble to patch a budget, drain down fund reserves, ding the parents with increased fees, layoff teachers, reshuffle staff, and increase class sizes. This broken model is diminishing the student educational experience and eroding the reputation of the District. It is high time we confront this head on and create a sustainable financial model that will preserve the reputation of the District and lighten the burden on parents and taxpayers.
Jimmy Olsen August 12, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Mr. Zimmer, really, you think Mr. Friese had that much control over the board members to make the members rubber stamp everything that came up to a vote ? No more so than any board president before or after him. Mr. Holden, Mr. Friese also offered, according to the article, "suggested non-profit service organizations be exempt from the new fee structure", but you only chose to point out another suggestion by him. Ms. Slawson is an avowed Girl Scout, yet she voted "yes". As did the other board members. In the words of Margo Channing (Bette Davis): Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night! (or Board Election).
PeterT August 13, 2011 at 01:25 AM
What is going on here? Have you met the Saline Area School’s school board? Each member is far from being “rubber stamps to approve items on the agenda.” These individuals are very strong-minded. Although, I don’t agree with many of the decisions they have made, I am not one to twist their words and paint them out to look like monsters. What is sad… is that we have community members whom continue to bash the school board’s EVERY decision (even when they are trying their best to “fix” things.) ***Reread the last paragraph of the article. I personally, don’t feel scouts should have to pay to use the schools, however, I am not going to look past the fact that the school board is giving their time to reconsider this decision. I applaud their suggestions, i.e. using Liberty, wavering some, collaborating with Mr. Puffer, etc. Times are tough, it cost money to run buildings-hence the reason the schools were throughout the summer.
PeterT August 13, 2011 at 01:25 AM
My family and I moved here five years ago for one reason and one reason ONLY--- the top-notch schools. We, as a community, need to get it together and stop pointing fingers at everyone else and start supporting each other. Everyone is up for someone else giving up things until it’s their turn to. Again, let me restate: I do not feel as though non-profit organizations should have to pay to use buildings, but who should? This is not a time to be scolding or twisting Mr. David Friese’s words, he’s not the enemy. He loves the schools, the community and these groups that do make Saline the special place to live. As the school board election is approaching quickly my family and I have noticed- it’s the negative “haters,” whom are planning on taking his seat, which we should be watching CLOSELY. Good luck to the board to resolve this item. Good job Sydney for speaking up, I am so proud of you!
David Zimmer August 13, 2011 at 04:17 AM
Hello Jimmy Olsen, You owe me a phone call. Still waiting. Your comments remind me of the former Board member, Paul Hynek. This is a good example beyond Mr. Friese's conduct of what I am referring to when I say rubber stamping by the Board. You may recall that Mr. Hynek ran as a candidate who was opposed to School of Choice only to then vote for School of Choice within 4 months of taking office. Why? He told me because the School Admin. was requesting it and Paul felt that he needed to support their wishes rather than the wishes of those who voted for him - People that voted for him because he was opposed to School of Choice. None of the facts changed during this 4 month period, only now Mr. Hynek was on the Board rather than running for the Board. That seems like a good example of rubber stamping to me. If you want me to go over other examples, give me a call.
Paul Hynek August 13, 2011 at 11:09 AM
Mr. Zimmer, I was told that you believe that I am Jimmy Olsen, but I am not. Particularly on AnnArbor.com, it is against the guidelines for an elected official, or one running for office to post anonymously. When I ran for school board I was against schools of choice "as a way to balance the budget". The numbers that Saline Area Schools have did/does not do that. The facts and data provided by the school administration at the time supported that. The people opposed to schools of choice presented a 1998 study from Minnesota about declining property values, already 8 years old at the time. I think the economy of Michigan in the last 5 years quite handily took care of that. There has never been a discipline issue with a school of choice student in our district, another issue with the opposition. Based on the people in this community that I have spoken to in the subsequent 4 years I served on the Board there doesn't seem to be the great opposition by the "wishes of the community" that you so often refer to.
PeterT August 13, 2011 at 12:51 PM
As I said, it's the one's running for the board we have to watch very CLOSELY... always attacking. Keep your head up Paul.

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