Peninsula school district raises facilities fees

March 14, 2008 7:21:07 PM PDT
In San Mateo County, educators are making ends meet by increasing fees at all of their gyms, fields and theatres. This could mean the end of many youth sports programs.

"I really enjoy playing sports... I mean, it's my second life," says 12-year-old Michael Capitolo.

Capitolo plays basketball, soccer, track and baseball. New increased fees at the fields where he plays are so high, he's afraid his sports days are over.

"I don't know how we'd be able to afford it. Probably not. I won't be able to play sports," says Capitolo.

The San Mateo Union High School District has raised the use fees for all of its facilities. For example, the football field at San Mateo High rented for $8 a day to sports organizations. Beginning July 1, it could go for $60 an hour.

"While it's important to provide facility use to organizations, especially the youth organizations, we can't subsidize them," says Liz McManus with the San Mateo Union High School District.

The district says improvements to the field at Mills High School and other fields will cost at least $15 million. They say that's the reason why they have to get some money from their use fees.

Facing a $900,000 deficit for next year, the district decided that its facilities were capable of producing income. Unfortunately, St. Dunstan Catholic Elementary School in Millbrae uses the district's facilities because they don't have a gym or a track. Paying the new fees might mean cancelling its sports programs. Parents couldn't afford them.

"We have to increase our per sport fee from $95 where it currently sits to approximately $225 per sport, per student," says Lawrence Cappel, a parent volunteer at St. Dunstan.

But the district points to the wear and tear on its fields and tracks. In the future they say if it's used, it's paid for.

"Now we're going to ask them to pay for the lighting, the heating, the wear and tear on the gym," says McManus.

The district says it will try to feather the fees in so that no particular sports organization has to end.