Recent changes to the Cheatham County Schools’ facility usage fees have left many youth leagues wondering whether they will have enough money and time to fully teach students about junior pro sports. Parents and sports league officials alike voiced their concerns about the revisions at the school board’s August 1 meeting. Meanwhile, school officials discussed in-depth with The Post the changes and the reasoning behind them.
Concerns about Fee Changes
During the public forum, Larry Turner, Cheatham County Youth Basketball Association representative, spoke about how their sports and cheer program positively impacts local students and schools.
Shane Allen of Pleasant View also addressed the facility usage fees and how they would affect the program which has been in the community nearly 40 years. Allen explained the required fees could possibly double registration costs and restrict the amount of time young players would be able to practice.
“By implementing these fees, I am concerned that the programs that have been around for decades will cease to exist, and that the extra financial burden imposed by these fees will cause unnecessary hardships,” he said.
“I cannot begin to convey the extraordinary work that community volunteers put into helping these programs remain accessible to our youth as means to promote activity, foster personal and athletic growth, and provide an escape for children that come from less-than- opportunistic home conditions,” Allen added.
Former Ashland City Parks and Recreation Director Tony Young voiced his concerns after the forum. “I would hate to see county youth programs decrease. I coached at West Cheatham and Ashland City for years. All of the kids are much better off today because of the programs.”
Background on Facility Usage Fees
In case you weren’t aware, a facility usage fee is charged to community and civic organizations that use school facilities or property when school isn’t in session and is a part of a long-standing district policy, according to Cheatham County Schools Communications Director Tim Adkins.
“As part of this policy, the School Board approves and annually reviews a fee schedule. Community and civic organizations who use school facilities when school is not in session have been charged this fee for many years,” Adkins said.
In years past, local sports leagues typically worked directly with the school principal at the beginning of their season on a flat fee to pay to use the facilities. The money they paid would stay at the school, he said.
Facilities Audit Leads To Revisions
Here’s why the policy was revised. In a recent facilities audit, the school district discovered some organizations were paying the required fees and others were not.
“As part of the audit of each of our schools and their utilities, it was discovered that the school had absorbed thousands of dollars in additional expenses and had received little in the way of the usage fee to help with the utilities. The district can’t continue to support that additional expense on a fiscal level,” Adkins said.
Further, some groups were not being good stewards of the facilities. These groups (who would not be named by school officials) were crowding out school daycares and not sharing. Other groups were not paying for the utilities they used, he said.
Looking at the Changes In-Depth
To deal with these concerns, the school board approved in a final vote to revise the policy in July. Here’s what has changed: where the fees paid ultimately end up, the process community and civic groups go through to get permission to use the facilities, and how much time each organization can use the school facilities.
First, the funds generated by the fee don’t go to individual schools. Instead, the funds go into the general-purpose school fund and are used to offset utility costs, Adkins said.
Second, the procedure involves each community group filling out a form which goes through the school principal and departments at the central office.
“When a community and civic organization requests to use our facilities after-school hours, they must submit a request form to the school principal. The request will then proceed through the necessary approval process via our maintenance and finance departments. Once approved, the organization will be invoiced by the finance department,” he explained.
“The form includes a fee schedule and the organization is charged on an hourly basis, depending on what they will be using, such as the gymnasium, classroom, auditorium, cafeteria, stadium, ballfield, etc.,” Adkins said. The fees shown on the form range from $20 per hour for a gymnasium to $40 an hour for a stadium, auditorium, or track. Classrooms are $15 per day.
How much time each organization can use the school facilities depends on how many other groups also need to use the same space. “There will be a limitation due to schedules and activities associated with each school. The days and hours should be submitted on the form for approval,” he said.
To be clear, school-related groups will not be charged for using school facilities, Adkins said. These would include student clubs and activities, parent-teacher associations and other organizations affiliated with schools.
Get Involved with Workshops
Board member John Louallen appealed to the concerned parents and league officials and coaches who spoke at the forum to get involved in upcoming discussions on the district’s facility policy. The next work session is scheduled for August 29 at 6:30 p.m.