Youth Groups Wary of New Rental Fees

October 27, 2010; Source: Herald-News | Even among nonprofits and government-supported institutions, the old mantra “share and share alike” is being substituted for “you want to share, then pay your fair share.” For example, in the past when groups such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Y needed space for programs, schools would typically give it to them for free. Now, at least one school district in Illinois wants to charge these groups for using their space.

The Plainfield, Ill. School Board has proposed fees ranging from $5 to $10 an hour, in addition to administrative fees that could top $100 a year to use a multipurpose room. The district, which is facing a $6.7 million deficit and is likely to lay off employees and cut programs, needs to find revenue from other sources.

It’s no surprise to read groups that would be subject to new fees aren’t greeting the idea warmly. One Cub Scout leader thinks the charges would hamper his pack of 50 boys who hold programs at one of the district’s elementary schools. Jon Harper told district officials not “to try to balance the budget on our backs. We want to do some service projects in the schools. We want it to be a real partnership not just a business.”

Not all school districts are going this route, though. The nearby Valley View School District does not charge rental fees because officials recognize the value of these outside programs for students. While fees for space aren’t likely to win much support, another idea being floated might gain some traction. In return for free use of space, perhaps Scouts or other groups could pick up litter on school grounds or help with landscape projects.—Bruce Trachtenberg