School Committee OKs Fee, Rent Increases for Using School Spaces

Photo: School lunches will increase by a quarter beginning in September.

The Belmont School Committee approved a package of fee hikes for all users of school space at its Tuesday, June 10 meeting.

The action, first reported in the Belmontonian last month, will begin in July at the start of the new fiscal year in July for facility rentals, full-day Kindergarten and school breakfast and lunches.

The increases come after an analysis conducted this spring by the Belmont School District to determine the actual cost of operating school facilities including classrooms and athletic spaces. 

Examples of the new fees include: 

• Increases for after school care will range from $7,400 to $5,900 over the two years with rental expenses reaching $29,425 at the Wellington, Butler and the Middle School, $23,406 at the Winn Brook and Burbank and $6,688 at the High School in fiscal 2017. 

• A jump in lunch fees by a quarter at the district’s elementary, middle and high schools will result in Belmont’s total pricing of $9.50, jumping from the lower to the highest third of other school districts, comparable to schools in municipalities such as Lexington ($9.25), Dover-Sherborn ($9.75) and Winchester ($10) but still behind Watertown ($10.50) and Concord ($10.55). 

• One local organization feeling the impact is the Belmont Aquatic Team. The non-profit will see its hourly rent for the Higginbottom Pool located at Belmont High School increase from $13.28 to $50 an hour in the coming school year and $75 in 2016-17. 

Speaking to the committee, Elena Ruggiero, BAT’s director of registration, said the new rental expenses on the 35-year-old club, with 77 swimmers – it is one of the smallest clubs in the New England Swim League – “does seem abrupt, making up from past times.”  

Ruggiero said the organization did not feel the school district’s move towards establishing market rents as “unfair considering the very low rates currently.” But she said “it is a big expansion of fees” resulting in higher tuition rates. Currently, members – 88 percent are Belmont residents – pay between $700 (for those 10 and younger) and $900 (for more senior swimmers) for half of a 11 month season. 

Ruggiero said the jump in tuition for members will be “substantial” and the club will only know how it will effect membership when enrollment starts in September.

School District Superintendent John Phelan, who described each effected group as “our partners,” said he is committed to a continuing dialogue with the renters on the impact of the higher expenses, a comment that Ruggiero took to heart. 

“Our hope is that we keep talking,” said Ruggiero, noting that most teams are part of a larger business – many own the pools and rent them out or conduct swimming lessons – with dedicated revenue that allows them to subsidize the clubs.

“We are just a swim team,” said Ruggiero. 

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