Fee Waivers Under Fire

WINNSBORO (April 8, 2016) – A request by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the Fairfield County School Board to waive building use fees for district facilities came under fire at the School Board’s March 15 meeting.

Kevin Robinson, Director of Finance, presented several requests from outside organizations asking that the board waive the fees for use of school buildings. The NRC asked for a fee waiver for the use of McCrorey-Liston Elementary School for a public meeting on the V.C. Summer Nuclear plant; Gethsemane Church and Sunday School union asked for fees to be waived for use of McCrorey-Liston for six days for Vacation Bible School; V.C. Summer asked for a fee waiver for use of the track at Fairfield Central High School for a physical fitness test for its security response team; and the Fairfield Salkehatchie service group asked for fees to be waived for using the high school to house mission volunteers for a week.

Board member Annie McDaniel (District 4) noted that the school district could be reimbursed from governmental agencies for the use of the schools.

Board chairwoman Beth Reid (District 7) replied that the motion was that the fees be waived.

McDaniel said she would like to amend the motion under consideration by the board, “that we not waive the fees, because we can get reimbursement for the use of the facilities.”

“Why would we not want to waive fees for an agency that contributes mightily to our budget every year and for whom we have waived the fees for who knows how many years?” Reid asked.

McDaniel said that waiving the fees should be based on need.

“Why should we waive the fees (for V.C. Summer) when we have students in that area who have been complaining because, when we first built that high school in the area, we promised those parents that we would pay for those students’ (transportation to) extracurricular activities,” McDaniel said. “We have not been truly honoring that except for some athletic events. Please help me understand why we would not want the money back when we could get reimbursed?”

Contacted by telephone after the meeting, McDaniel told The Voice that it was her understanding that when the district had closed McCrorey-Liston and Winnsboro high schools and consolidated them under Fairfield Central, the parents in the outlying county areas were assured that the district would pay for transportation for the students for extracurricular activities at the school.

She said this was still an on-going issue in the poorest and most remote areas of the county, and in fact had been raised at a recent town hall meeting held by Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green at McCrorey-Liston School of Technology.

During this meeting, the parents were told that the district doesn’t have the money to help the students attend extracurricular events. Her frustration, McDaniel said, is that she talked with an (NRC) representative who said the NRC would not have problems paying an invoice for the use of the school facilities.

“Why would you want to give to the wealthy and not give to those in need?” McDaniel asked, stating that she did not have a problem waiving the fees for Salkehatchie because students in that organization use their own money to buy materials and renovate houses in the community.

Reid said the board does not determine the use of facility but determines only if there will be a fee waiver.

Board policy on the use of school facilities by non-school groups states, the “board restricts the use of these facilities to recognized non-profit community organizations…. City and county activities may use some school facilities for activities on a non-profit basis without a facilities charge. The district will charge these groups for utilities, security, and custodial services.”

The policy further states that, “When school facilities are used by non-school persons, a school employee must be present while the facility is in use. The group using the facility will pay for the employee’s services.”

Also, administrative rules for the district state, “The board requires the administration to also establish a facility fee schedule for the areas deemed appropriate for community use as part of this policy. Consideration is given to school-related and non-profit organizations and lower fees are charged in an effort to encourage community use; however, it is the intent of the board to recover any direct expense incurred as a result of such usage. Requests for fee waivers will be referred to the board. Any organization may request a fee waiver.”

Responding to a question from Paula Hartman (District 2), Superintendent Green responded that the cost to use school facilities would vary depending on the event, but estimated that for a couple of hours it would “probably be a couple hundred dollars.”

Hartman said the use of the school facilities seems to be growing more and more, and she would like the board take a closer look at its policy.

McDaniel asked Green if the Democratic Party had paid any fees recently when they used the middle school. Green said they had not. McDaniel further pointed out that the school board was not even presented with a fee waiver request from the Democratic Party and that it was not reviewed by the board. Under further questioning by McDaniel, Green also conceded that he had allowed another church, the House of Prayer, to store equipment at one of the schools without completing a facility usage request.

Henry Miller (District 3), who earlier had stated that since the NRC gives the district “$21 million” a year, said he wasn’t going to fight them on the issue of fees and pronounced the “school is community … we are one,” and that the board should encourage the community to come to the district: “I would wish that we had more churches, more businesses to come to our schools.”

The board voted on McDaniel’s amendment — that Dr. Green invoice the government entity (NRC) so the district can be reimbursed for the use of the school facilities. The motion failed 5-2. The board then passed the original motion, that the fees be waived for use of the McCrorey-Liston School of Technology by NRC, 5 (Reid, Miller, and Board members William Frick – District 6, Sylvia Harrison – District 1, and Carl Jackson – District 5) to 2 (McDaniel and Hartman). The board also approved the fee waiver request for Gethsemane, with 5 voting yes, Hartman voting no, and McDaniel abstaining, and unanimously approved the two fee waiver requests for the use of Fairfield Central High School.

When The Voice asked Robinson after the meeting whether the fee waiver meant that the organizations would also not have to pay for the costs of utilities, security and custodial services for the use of the schools, he stated that if the waiver is approved, any fees the district would normally charge would be waived, and the organization would not have to pay anything to use school facilities.


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