Proposed increase in rental fees for Shawnee Mission School District facilities gets pushback from users

Kids playing in the Great American Basketball League may have to pay more to dribble if the Shawnee Mission School District adopts a new rental fee increase.
Kids playing in the Great American Basketball League may have to pay more to dribble if the Shawnee Mission School District adopts a new rental fee increase.

A non-profit youth basketball organization is crying foul over a proposed increase in Shawnee Mission School District rental fees that would raise the cost of using a middle or high school gym by more than 90 percent.

The proposed rental increase now before the school board is scheduled for final consideration next month. Brett Hunter, managing director of the GABL Youth Sports Foundation, hopes to delay the vote until January to allow more time to persuade board members to soften the blow.

“The biggest concern we have is the magnitude of having this increase all at once,” Hunter said. “It will affect our ability to help Shawnee Mission youth with their basketball needs.”

Dr. Rick Atha, assistant superintendent for instructional support, told the school board Monday it’s been seven years since the district last raised its rents on facilities.

“Over the last seven years, we’ve had increased costs to maintain our facilities,” Atha said. “We’ve fallen behind in being able to recoup our costs. We want to charge a reasonable fee to capture the costs of maintaining quality facilities.”

The proposed rental increase would raise the cost of using an elementary gym from the current $9.50 to $15 for a non-profit group, a 58 percent increase. A middle-school gym would rise from $10.50 to $20, up 90.5 percent, and a high school gym from $13 to $25, up 92 percent.

“Twenty dollars an hour doesn’t sound like a lot, but to raise it from $10.50 is a big bump,” Hunter said.

Even bigger hikes are proposed for high school tennis courts. A non-profit user would see their cost rise 200 percent, from $5 per hour per court to $15.

For-profit users of school facilities would see much bigger increases. For example, the cost of renting a high school gym would rise from $13 to $50, and a high school auditorium would jump from $22 to $70.

Proposed increases for providing custodial services would be more moderate, rising 11.5 percent from $26 to $29. The cost of a light board technician would go up 33 percent, from $15 to $20.

GABL, which stands for Great American Basketball League, was formed 44 years ago by a group of Shawnee Mission parents looking for a league for their kids to join. It’s grown from a couple hundred participants to 4,000 boys and girls, K-12, all based in the Shawnee Mission area, Hunter said.

Last year, those leagues used 8,005 hours of court time at a cost of $82,537. Under the proposed new rental fees, that cost would jump to $152,646, Hunter estimated. Throw in $6,900 for custodial time, and it would double the league’s costs.

“We operate in dozens of schools on the weekends and dozens at night for practices,” he said. “We’ve been partners with the school system for a long time and are one of the biggest users of their facilities.

“We understand they’ve been very affordable the 44 years we’ve been there. That’s one of the reasons our program is so big because it’s affordable and more kids can participate.”

Atha told the school board that district officials understand the increase being proposed is substantial. He suggested that in the future, rates be reviewed every two years “so it doesn’t hit as hard as this probably will.”

He said that even with the increase, which would go into effect July 1, 2017 if approved, Shawnee Mission costs are lower than Blue Valley and Olathe.

Hunter said his organization is not at “war” with the district, but wants to come up with a plan with a more gradual increase.

“We hope to come up with a solution where in five or six years they can get to the numbers they want,” he said. “We want to work with the district on this. We understand it’s a tough situation.”