Club questions loss of free meeting space
A North Burnaby man is questioning the "community" aspect of his local community school after his club was told it was losing its free space rentals there.
Jim Ervin, founder of the Automotive Model Builders Club, said his group has been meeting at Lochdale Community School for 30 years at no charge.
But on Sept. 7, the club's secretary heard there was a possibility of a rental fee and a cancellation of its first meeting on Sept. 13, Ervin said.
While some members would be willing to pay a small fee, Ervin said they were later told the fee would be $56 per meeting, which he considers "totally out of the question." The club only has about 20 members, many of them seniors on fixed income, who pay a nominal membership fee of $12 per year.
When the rental at the school for their September meeting was cancelled, they managed to find space at Cameron Recreation Centre, which only charged them $26 for two hours.
That's more doable but only on a temporary basis, said Ervin, who noted the group is having to dip into its savings.
Ervin, 65, has no children and feels personally that the free space at the school was a benefit for the school taxes he pays.
"If you don't have a child in school, then what value do you get from school taxes which we're already paying?"
Greg Frank, Burnaby school district secretary-treasurer, said he has no details on what happened with the club and district staff have been asked to look into the case.
There has been no general increase in rental rates. However, he thought it might have something to do with an automated booking system the district started implementing in September.
The district is identifying users of its facilities that may have dealt directly with schools without the district's knowledge and without going through the district's process.
As they are coming to light, the district wants to make sure they have proper contracts in place, that they have proper insurance, and that any charges are documented.
"But we're also recognizing where long-term users have been using it we don't want to create any immediate hardship for them as well so we are looking at each of these as they come up, individually," he said. "We'll try to work with the group and that is what we will do with this group here."
Whether they end up being charged will depend on a number of factors, he said, noting the club's situation is the first one that's come to his attention since the new system was put in place.
Burnaby school board chair Larry Hayes confirmed there has been a concerted effort in the past couple years to bring consistency to the district's rental process to make it fairer for everybody.
He noted that the district also usually incurs some costs from a rental, from keeping the school lit and heated to having a janitor on hand, and rental fees seek to recoup some, if not all, of that.
As for Ervin's suggestion that without the free rentals he derives no benefit from the school taxes he pays, Hayes noted he likely benefited personally from having a free public education system.
"You could extrapolate that to anything [such as], 'I don't go to the hospital much so why should I be paying a lot of taxes that go to supporting other people's medical bills?'" Hayes said.
"That's the society that we live in. Taxes do go to supporting the overall good. I would rather be supporting the public education system than not. I don't think that argument holds any water at all."