BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — PENDLETON –– The discussion will continue, but Starpoint officials seem to favor charging the Town of Pendleton for using school property during its summer recreation program.
Supervisor James Riester and Councilman Edward P. Harman told the Starpoint Board of Education that Pendleton would be fine with being charged, if everyone who uses school property was charged. Aside from that, charging the town for use of a public building was a disservice to the ones who ultimately pay the bills, Riester said.
”It belongs to the taxpayers,” he said.
Starpoint Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan said the goal was to find some relief from what the recreation program costs the district, not to kill the program.
”It’s the extra cost that concerns us,” Whelan said. “It’s a great program for the community. But with the amount of usage, we want to share the cost.”
Each year, according to their agreement, Starpoint leases school property to Pendleton so the town can run the summer version of the program. There is a winter program, but the most usage of Starpoint property is during the two-month summer program. The lease agreement is a one-year deal that runs from January through December and is typically agreed upon every year in the fall.
Earlier this year, school officials said the summer program costs Starpoint about $6,000, but only $1,400 without labor costs. That total included energy costs for use of a cafeteria, gymnasium and the Starpoint pool.
The issue rose last year, with discussion centering around charging Pendleton to help offset costs for the school, but both sides agreed to a deal without any charge to the town.
The summer program runs for about six weeks, about six hours a day. Pendleton charges non-residents $150 to participate in the program, but last year starting charging residents $10 to sign up. That was done in order to discourage people from signing up and not attending, which in past years led to overstaffing.
Harman said 280 kids signed up for the summer program in 2011, but the program only averaged 150 kids each day.
”But we had to staff for 280,” he said.
For this past summer, 178 kids were registered. Of those, 155 were Pendleton residents.
Starpoint charges the YMCA about $900 for use of school property for an eight week summer program, but no other organization is charged regularly, Harman said.
Whelan said no other organization uses school facilities to the extent Pendleton does. Some may use one room for a single day, which doesn’t add up to much of a cost for the district.
Riester said he would speak with the Pendleton Town Board about the school district’s $1,500 fee. In the meantime, Whelan said the district would look into coming up with a set fee structure for every organization that uses school property and review how the buildings were being used by Pendleton.
Riester said he did not expect the Town Board to be in favor of the recreation usage fee. Like many other municipalities, including schools, Pendleton is facing a tough financial challenge with two looming layoffs, Riester said. Everything has to be monitored closely when it comes to money.
“We can’t operate in the red,” Riester said. “It’s a tough time for everybody out there.”
Starpoint Board President Mark Ewart said the school buildings were paid for by taxpayers of five communities, not just Pendleton. And if a non-resident wanted to participate in the recreation program, they would have to pay $150.
Starpoint has five towns within its borders, but Pendleton is the only one that is completely within the school district boundaries. Of the other towns, only Lockport does not have a regular summer recreation program. The others, Cambria, Wheatfield and Royalton do have their own programs.
After the discussion, Ewart and Board Member Gregory Saraf said a deal would get done with Pendleton.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.