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School board tie vote nixes rental fee for nonprofits

The Medford School Board voted Monday against a new facilities rental fee schedule, after more than a year of discussion on the topic.

With a 3-3 vote, the tie meant the board turned down the revised fee schedule, which included charging nonprofit organizations for use of district facilities.

Though such nonprofit organizations would have had the opportunity to volunteer time or materials donations in lieu of payment, some members of the board were concerned that by imposing any fees, costs might be transferred to children.

"We need to really think hard on the policy and the impact that it has on our kids," said board Chairwoman Paulie Brading after the decision.

The fee schedule would have forced nonprofit groups to pay an hourly rate to use district facilities.

For-profit organizations already pay the fees, but nonprofits such as the YMCA, Kids Unlimited, and Rogue Valley Soccer Club have used Medford schools at no charge.

Full prices for the facilities range from $8 an hour for conference rooms to $75 an hour for the North Medford High School auditorium.

The board had revised the schedule multiple times, most recently lowering the price of the gymnasium at Central Medford High School to accommodate some sports groups.

"I'm concerned about the fees that are sent along to students," Brading said.

Brading reflected back to her own childhood, and her reluctance to cost her family additional money when she played sports.

"If we do go back to any kind of discussion, this needs to reflect the reality of what families are facing," said Brading.

With these concerns in mind, the board had planned to allow nonprofit and community groups to donate volunteer time, likely in the form of custodial duties, grounds maintenance, or painting.

District leaders met with some nonprofit groups in mid-August, and said they were receptive to the idea of in-kind work and materials exchanges.

Groups would also be eligible for additional discounts if they were able to handle their own custodial duties, and the district also considered exchanging of facilities between schools and community groups.

Despite all the considerations for the nonprofit groups, the board was still indecisive about the fees on Monday.

Superintendant Phil Long noted that based on 2010-11 usage, the facilities fee schedule could have been worth $92,000. Fee usage has been absorbed into the maintenance department's budget in the past, but Long said he would now prefer it to be separate.

The board mentioned discussing the issue again in the future, but for now, community and nonprofit groups will use Medford schools facilities for free.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or e-mail tristow@mailtribune.com