Burbank Unified officials have postponed a decision to start charging the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club tens of thousands of dollars for using school facilities after dozens of people came out to oppose the proposal.
Burbank Unified has for years looked the other way when it came to collecting fees from the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and the Greater East Valley to use school facilities, but a recent proposal sought to charge the nonprofit $88,500 in rental and maintenance costs to use 11 sites in 2013-14.
Dozens of people, including former Mayor Dave Golonski, Boys & Girls Club employees and their clients, spoke against the district’s proposal at Thursday’s board meeting, with many citing the critical service the club provides in refusing to turn away anyone who can’t afford after-school care.
“The truth of the matter is, we simply cannot afford the proposed amounts you have brought to the table,” said Leena Mathew, president of the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club.
She added that the charge “would actually cripple the club,” which serves 2,400 children, nearly half of whom are students at Burbank Unified.
The proposal comes after several years of Burbank Unified trying to cope with major budget challenges. In 2013-14, the district could face a $5.5-million structural deficit.
City Treasurer Debbie Kukta — a former school board member — came out Thursday in support of the district charging a negotiated fee.
“It’s a wonderful program that supports the community,” Kukta said of the club, “but the district’s key mission is to educate the kids and that’s during the school day.”
School board President Dave Kemp preferred to impose the $88,500 fee, but keep negotiations open.
“We have an obligation to be fiscal stewards with district resources,” he said. “We can no longer really subsidize anything to the extent that we really would like to when our employees haven’t had a raise for five years.”
School board member Larry Applebaum implored the Boys & Girls Club to charge families who can afford to pay for after-school care.
“The people who are in your program who can pay, should pay,” he said.
The board ultimately refrained from voting on a fee charge pending further negotiations.
For Boys & Girls Club Chief Executive Shanna Warren, the school board’s decision to table the item was “the next best thing” from doing away with the fee altogether.
In past years, Warren said the Boys & Girls Club’s role in providing a safe place for children after school had outweighed the cost of allowing use of the facilities.
Still, she said, “if they say at the end of the day, ‘We still want your money,’ we’ll find a way.”
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.