School Board: No Immediate Increases to Facilities Rental Rates

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Businesses and organizations that rent spaces in New Canaan public schools—auditoriums, gyms and cafeterias, for example—won’t have to worry about an increase in fees until at least July 1, district officials said Monday night.

A new system for facilities rentals likely won’t be in place until next spring, and the schools right now are looking at “the implications and impact” of a proposed set of rates that caused some concern recently, Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said at the Board of Education meeting.

“What we [school officials] have thought about, and what I would like to briefly report, is maintaining current rates that we have through June 30 and then beginning the new rates July 1, the new fiscal year, whatever they are going to be ultimately,” Luizzi said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School.

Rentals of school spaces that include gyms, auditoriums, cafeterias and classrooms last academic year ran at a loss of more than $11,000, the district has reported.

Luizzi’s comments come on the heels of one proposal that would have divided groups that rent space at the schools into categories such as nonprofits and community groups versus for-profit businesses, and local versus out-of-town organizations. An attendant fee schedule could see zero or minimal fees for some groups, such as the New Canaan Library or youth organizations, and far higher rates for private businesses.

At the school board’s Sept. 8 meeting, several members raised concerns about steep increases to private businesses in New Canaan—The Walter Schalk School of Dance being one prime example—that, though they may not have 501(c)(3) nonprofit status with the IRS, still may give generously back to the town (as Walter Schalk does and has for several decades).

It isn’t clear just where the Board of Education will land on the new rates. The proposal discussed at the Sept. 8 meeting would have meant operations such as Walter Schalk would see a 112 percent increase in the 3-hour rate, from $330 to $700. While some board members pushed back at those steep increases, others argued in favor of a rigidly consistent fee schedule for all businesses seeking to use school facilities.

Putting aside the questions about specific increases, Luizzi said Monday that notifying local organizations now that no new fees would come in until next summer would at least help them plan better (for example, by passing along increases to their own clients).

“It is helpful for groups that use our facilities, because now they are booking out into the spring and they are trying to figure out what they should be charging,” Luizzi said.

Board members Sangeeta Appel, Gene Goodman and Penny Rashin voiced support for putting off a change in rates until next summer.

Here’s a table that shows the current rate schedule:

Existing New Canaan Public Schools Facilities Usage Rates*

 Local NonprofitLocal CommercialNonlocal
Auditorium (NCHS)$240$330$420
Gymnasium (NCHS)$225$300$375
Cafeteria (NCHS)$225$300$375
Wagner Room (NCHS)$195$240$285
Classroom (NCHS)$165$180$195
Auditorium (Saxe)$225$300$375
Gymnasium (Saxe)$210$270$330
Cafeteria (Saxe)$195$240$285
Classroom (Saxe)$0$0$0
Gymnasium (Elementary)$210$270$330
'Cafetorium' (Elementary)$195$240$285
Classroom (Elementary)$165$180$195
Source: New Canaan Board of Education

*Note: The rates listed here are for 3-hour use of facilities. School-related, town and youth-serving New Canaan groups pay no fee for standard use of any facility.

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