Manteca Unified taxpayers had a $123 advantage last year in their “quid pro quo” with the City of Manteca when it came to the shared use of facilities.
But as far as Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer is concerned the savings were even bigger for all taxpayers since neither the school district nor the city had to involve staff time for the billing of the actual use of various facilities.
The “this for that” deal which has eliminated the city from being charged by the school district and vice versa for the use of most facilities is expected to remain in place despite an uproar in the private sector from child care businesses who contend the arrangement means their biggest competitor – the city-operated after-school Kids Zone program – gets “free” rent at various school sites.
A rundown of free school district uses for Northgate softball fields, Lincoln Park baseball field, Morenzone Field, tennis courts and such in 2010 came to $56,950 according to City Manager Steve Pinkerton. Likewise municipal use of school swimming pools and other school facilities for recreation undertakings operated by the city came to $56,727. Those figures are based on what logged uses would actually have generated in fees.
The City Council in November directed that the staff make sure the school district was paid for all expenses that the Kids Zone incurred so that it wasn’t being subsidized with tax dollars in any form. Those expenses are covered by the trade out except during the summer when the vacation version of Kids Zone is in operation at school sites. The city paid over $21,000 to Manteca Unified last year for summer use of facilities when the district had shut things down and is trying to conserve energy to meet a tight budget.
Messer is expected to recommend to the Manteca Unified board on Tuesday that they continue the current arrangement with the caveat that the two agencies sit down once a year and review how things have gone. Messer said he believes it is counterproductive to start charging unless the district - or the city - is coming out 10 percent behind compared to the other. That’s because it would cost money to track use for billing purposes every time facilities are used.
The city and school district have a separate formal agreement for shared use of the Golden West, Stella Brockman, Neil Hafley, and Shasta community gyms. It was a requirement in order to secure state funds to help build the facilities.
The school board could be opening Pandora’s Box if they opted to press for charging for all municipal uses instead of being content with the trade out system.
That’s because the district picks up $400,000 of the tab for four school resource officer assigned to schools through the Manteca Police Department.
Bruce Mulder of the Manteca Parks and Recreation Department noted the city is moving forward with state licensing of the Kids Zone program. The city has consistently relied on an interpretation by legal counsel that it was a gray area in terms of whether they should be licensed. The council, however, instructed the staff to secure the proper state licenses.
Such a move addresses a concern brought up by school trustee Nancy Teicheria at Tuesday’s “two by two” meeting between representatives of both elected boards. She noted that many people who support Kids Zone made comments to the effect that since the school is involved that things must be OK with how the program is run.
Messer noted the school has no supervisorial responsibility once a child steps through the door of a Kids Zone program.
One possible snag may be a state licensing requirement that day care operations be cleaned daily. Messer was going to determine if the school district is cleaning rooms on a daily basis. If not and they need to be done the city may have to assume that responsibility.
Private day care provider Ed Fonseca spoke to the unfairness of having a business operated on school campuses that he said essentially receives free rent from taxpayers.
Fonseca contended the Kids Zone should be charged “the fair rental value” as already determined by the school district in its list of fees for organizations not assisted with the school district or have their own facilities but chose to use a classroom.
That charge is $25 per hour compared to $15 per hour for churches and $9 for youth groups within Manteca Unified that charge participation fees. They are also charged 86 cents an hour for electricity.
The cities of Lathrop, Manteca, and Stockton plus senior citizens groups and the San Joaquin Office of Education, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Brownies are not charged nor are school-based organizations.
Lynn Allen, the parent of a Sierra High golfer, expressed concern that should the city and school district start charging each other that the local high school golf teams would then be forced to pay green fees at the municipal golf course for practice and matches.
The city covers that cost - as well as reduced prices for youth and senior play -through a $150,000 annual general fund subsidy of the golf operations.