The board of education’s increased school rental rates was a torpedo in the hull of the local sea cadets squadron.
Three officers from 354 Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Corps (RCSCC) Invincible appeared before the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board on Wednesday, to float the idea of a reduced rate.
Rory Thompson, the executive officer of Invincible, noted that sea cadets had been renting space at Glenwood elementary for $7 an hour, or $840 a year, which he acknowledged was “an excellent deal.”
However, the rate increased to $54.45 an hour, and $6,534 per year, effective Jan. 1, as the school district struggle to balance its budget.
That, Thompson noted, is an increase of 778 per cent.
The sea cadets were renting the gym, a multi-purpose room and special education room at Glenwood.
“The impact that has had on us – as of January, we were forced to leave Glenwood elementary for our programs,” he said.
The group soldiers on, using facilities at the Royal Canadian Legion building on 224th Street, which he said are “not ideal.”
Thompson was sympathetic to the board.
“You have to make every dollar count, and look for every opportunity to increase your revenue,” he said.
However, he said that the lights and heat would be on at Glenwood, and custodial staff there regardless of whether the cadets are present.
“The incremental cost to the board for having us there is really quite minimal,” he proposed.
He noted the cadets are not asking for a return to previous rates, but one just double that.
“We’re willing to pay our share,” he said. “At the current rates, we can’t do it.”
The Invincible cadets are just the latest group to be displaced by the rental increase. The West Coast Auto Group Football Club cancelled indoor practices in local school gymnasiums. The Girl Guides also appeared before the board to say their troops were looking for churches and other facilities after similar rental hikes.
Questioned by the trustees, Thompson told the board that the cadets started seven years ago with 10 members, rose to a high of 50 two years ago, and now have 42. Members generally meet once or twice a week, with activities like marching band, air rifle marksmanship, rope work, orienteering and sailing.
It is aimed at ages 12-18, and has a focus on leadership and citizenship.
The group does fundraising activities like bottle drives and pub nights to keep fees low – currently $60 a year.
Board chair Mike Murray acknowledged the large increase because rates hadn’t been changed in a long time.
“All of the members of the board recognize we have not considered our fees often enough over the years,” he said.
The board did not offer a reduced rate to the cadets.
“We’ll certainly take it under advisement,” Murray said.
Prior to Jan. 1, non-profit children’s groups could rent classrooms and libraries for $1 hourly, and secondary gymnasiums for $5. The new schedule of fees is based on billing per square metre, and is in line with rates charged by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows parks and leisure services.
With the new rates, a youth non-profit group would pay $67.50 for a large gym, an adult non-profit $81, a private user $123 and a commercial user $154.
For other facilities, such as multi-purpose rooms and libraries, the cost ranges from $15 an hour for non-profit youth groups to $50 for commercial users.
Last year, the district made $320,000 from rentals and leases.