Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TESD Facilities Committee Looking at Revenue Sources and Maintenance/Storage Issues

Yesterday there was a TESD Facilities Committee meeting which Ray Clarke attended and graciously supplied notes. I was particularly interested in the fee structure for use of school district facilities and here is related rental information:
  • Regulation 7040 – Details for the use of TESD facilities and description of the tiered levels of rental fees (Oct. 2010)
  • Fee Schedule for TESD facilities usage – Pages 10-15.
I found district fee schedule for school district facilities usage very difficult to figure out. I often have reason to look for various township locations for lectures for the Trust (Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust) so I looked at the fee schedule to check the rental fee for the high school auditorium. I think I figured out that as a nonprofit township organization, the fee would fall in the ‘C’ category of fees but beyond that I was lost — would I pay additional fee(s) for custodian and if so, was that charge for the entire event by the hour or was it for clean-up. Was the requirement for 1 person or multiple people? Would I pay additional for use of bathroom facilities for the length of the event?
It seems to me if the district is looking to increase rental usage of the facilities rental, perhaps the fee structure could be more ‘user-friendly’. I understand that the school district rentals may be different from other non-school district rentals but. . . how about a flat fee for ‘x’ hours of usage that would include custodian and bathroom facilities, rather than the renter struggling to do all the necessary ‘add-ons’. Example: Conestoga HS auditorium rental for up to 3 hours, Mon – Thurs could be listed as ‘x’ fee. The fee should be inclusive and include all required labor fees, use of bathrooms, etc. — streamline the pricing so it is obvious the total cost is obvious.
In my review of the current facilities fee structure, I would not be able to fill out the application form and know the total charge without speaking to someone at the school. At this point, I would not be able to determine if the rental fees are too ‘high’ or too ‘low’ as compared to other outside rental options; there are too many variables and possible add-ons to the base hourly rate. This comment is not intended as a criticism’ just a suggestion to perhaps review and simplify the fee schedule to make it more user-friendly and therefore, more like for people to rent the facilities.
Ray Clark’s Notes from 4/15 Facilities Committee Meeting:
The Facilities Committee held another 3 hour plus marathon on Friday. A couple of noteworthy items, the last two with implications for the operating and capital budgets.
  1. Kudos to Chuck Marshall and the Valley Creek Trustee Council for their work to protect the “Exceptional Value” Valley Creek and its tributaries like Crabby Creek. I came in on the end of a discussion about installing a vegetated swale and drainage system to control the run off from the CHS fields off Irish Road. The Council would fund the project as a gift to the School District. Importantly, there is also a commitment to maintain the system until the desired natural vegetation becomes established. With assurances about the impact to the district, the Committee recommended that the project be accepted.
  2. More to and fro about facility rental fees and priorities, but frustratingly nothing concrete emerging yet. There is a recognition that the end of the property bubble requires new revenue sources, and thus the need to revisit policies that subsidize groups like scouts and TEYSA, that charge others below market rates, that are set by the day not the hour, and that restrict the use of Teamer Field based on limitations of the old grass field. I think that Betsy Fadem has taken responsibility for coming up with draft revisions to policy and regulations that address these issues and ensure that neighbor concerns are incorporated. The plan is to have something fully in place for 2012, with changes to the Teamer Field use possibly sooner.
  3. Finally, the Committee has zeroed in on a plan to address the limited maintenance and storage space consequent on the demolition of the ESC. (Let’s not revisit that decision here now: water under the bridge!) Both people and inventory are dispersed all over the district: not the way we’d want to have our district supported, I think. Over many meetings, the Committee has pushed the administration and architect to come up with a cost conscious plan that fits into a long term vision for the district facilities. The recommendation is now a two phase project. First, add on to the current, but frail, maintenance building on Old Lancaster Road, then, second (as the adjacent property becomes available), expand the addition, convert the old building to parking and add a storage building. The capital commitment for Phase 1 would be $1.13 million. (Another $2 million would be required to complete the project, but would not be committed now). I was assured that the space requirements for all functions are fully supported by the cost and service benefits of having the functions in house. This will be discussed at the next School Board meeting on April 25th for those interested.
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  1. Pattye: Your point about the complexity of the schedule has indeed been recognized, and one of the action items is to roll in the custodian and other fees to make the net cost clear.

  2. I have done facility management for other locations and have found there is more reason for the complexity than simply bad language — the building owner is better served if you have to contact them about the use, as quite honestly there is some grey area in who you really want to rent your building. That complexity prevents some group that would have intangible costs (security inside and out) from being able to rent for the same amount as the Trust. Just sayin.

    1. That may well be true — however, as a responsible taxpayer who happens to be be president of a nonprofit organization, if I am unable to figure out the complexity of the price structure — I simply give up and move on to a non-school district option. As a former member of DuPortail House in Chesterbrook, prospective people could clearly understand the pricing and policy structure, availability calendar and send in a deposit with their application. However, the reservation was not final until a board member signed the contract. If anything was not clear or outside of the stated guidelines, the reservation was not processed and their check returned (with explanation). As long as the rules & reqs are clearly understood (I did note that the TESD policy does exclude political event) I don’t forsee there would be that many ‘grey’ area of rentals. The point is that if TESD wants to increase their rental revenue, the pricing needs to be simplified and user-friendly to the propective client. I was pleased to read that Ray says that the board understands that problem and is working on it.

  3. Ray
    Appreciate that you go to these meetings — they just don’t work in my schedule anymore. One question that maybe you or CHV or some others more familiar with the process: we are in a rather bleak real estate recession right now. Is there ANY talk of an effort to lease storage facilities? We don’t always have to own the property and build on it? The idea that expanding the existence maintenance building — into what is clearly a residential community seems callous. The earliest discussions about that area had been to acquire the land from TE to Teamer for tennis courts or something….which I assume went away long ago after they decided to spend $4-$6M on Teamer? Do you have any info for us?

    1. Andrea
      Good question. There has been a rather agonizing review of options, including the possibility of leasing outside facilities for both storage and maintenance. The former Mack Oil building is used as the example for this; there is nothing particularly appealing about the size, condition and cost of that. No other specific options have been aired, but I imagine that any real estate broker worth their salt would be talking to first class prospective tenants like a school district, and those would have come up?

      The current plan makes sense to me:
      – The district owns most of the land; it’s right next to a major complex of schools and sports facilities
      – The existing property was used as a bus depot, so it’s not like a brand new incursion into a residential community
      – At the point when the owner of the adjacent property is ready to move, the project can be completed and landscaped to protect the street view
      – In the meantime, this is a major step towards housing our maintenance staff in an acceptable facility and avoiding significant maintenance capital for the current building
      – Short term capital commitment has been limited, although consistent with the long term solution
      – The district has plenty of access to low cost capital to fund this
      – Alternative district owned sites like Chesterbrook seem to have no advantages over the proposed plan

      You can see the presentation to which Cindy refers as part of the Facilities Committee agenda materials, and there will be an opportunity for discussion at the Board meeting.

      1. Appreciate it. I guess my issue with it beyond the cost is that it’s not exactly being a good neighbor — this IS a residential area with lots of activity though. They did a good job on the building across from TE — though THAT was the maintenance building….and was converted to the IT building when the ESC was relocated. I guess I am thinking longer term that in the same way custodial services are outsourced, so likely will be maintenance services. It’s been awhile since I asked for an inventory of exactly what it is they are going to store….and where it was before ? The ESC was not used for storage until the people moved out…so what is being stored?
        May have to take a Friday off and come ask. Thanks Ray and CHV.

        1. Andrea,
          Questions about what will be stored & how much of a cost saving ( for buying in bulk) have been asked repeatedly for months.. This is the only info in the report :
          Maintenance & Storage Review

          SPACE NEEDS 3170SF
          First Ave sheds 1120SF
          Materials in schools 1000SF
          Remaining SF from eliminated sheds 1050SF

          The IT building was a nice job. cost 2.5 million and they had to do it there because that department could not go to TEAO….

        2. Purchasing was discussed at the meeting also. The savings are being achieved currently through half-yearly buying as a IU consortium member. If you believe the IU numbers, the expense saving is +/- $250,000 per year.

          The benefit of the eventual centralized storage will be to consolidate the materials currently scattered hither and yon throughout the district in closets, hallways, etc., thus allowing for more efficient receiving, better inventory control. Tough to put an incremental dollar value on that, though.

  4. They made a lovely packet & slide show to promote this one…
    #1 Current arrangement (renovate) $805,00
    #2 Renovate & Add ( 2 Phases) $2,342,000
    # 3 New Building current site $2,714,000
    #4 New Building on alternative site $3,1 – 3,500,000
    # 5 Rent or Purchase ..unknown
    They still need to purchase the one remaining property and the 97yr old owner DOES NOT want to sell to them.

  5. Okay — this all sounds silly to me. So if they have a centralized storage location for “bulk buying” does that mean we’ll need to hire a person to run that building? To maintain the inventory and will schools have to have forms to requisition supplies from the central storage facility? So TESD saves $250K a year by “half yearly buying”?
    I’ll stop bothering this forum with these questions….my background was in planning and construction/ along with expense control….so I’m not going to get an answer that works for me. The IT building HAS to have room in it — they came out of a little section of the ESC and took over the whole building…and we’re shutting down FLES and IT in elementary schools….
    As Kevin said — now you see why it’s fun to be off the board. And I don’t think it’s harder — I think they make the decisions more complicated than they are.

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