The New Paltz Central School District (NPCSD) will look to enact a fee-based reservation policy for organized public use of its athletic fields this spring.
During a meeting of the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education held on Wednesday, February 2, Facilities Committee Chairwoman Teresa Thompson said the $35-per-hour fee would not only help offset maintenance costs on their fields, it would also ensure anyone making a reservation would be likely to stick with it. In the past, she said, groups would reserve fields and then not turn up to use them.
“With this (fee), you have the field and you’re serious about it and you will be here on those days,” Thompson said. “And it opens it up to other groups, because we did have a group that reserved the fields like 310 days out of the year. And then other people wanted to use it and they couldn’t. It just makes sense for us to have accountability.”
The NPCSD’s fields were closed to public use last year, but with spring coming the district has received numerous inquiries for its fields, courts, tracks and other outdoor facilities.
“I think the consensus among everyone was that we should be able to open those up this year to outside groups,” Thompson said.
The committee reviewed a list of community groups, recreational leagues and others who used the district’s outdoor spaces between 2018-2020 before getting a sense of the potential for widespread need.
“It was significant,” Thompson said. “There was a lot more than I think anyone thought…And we feel that we should be to sufficiently house those people and their needs this year.”
The reservation process would apply to groups not affiliated with the NPCSD, which would still reserve the right to use its own facilities for athletics and other events. The concept was designed after considering state education law, which allows a school board to adopt “reasonable regulations” for public use of its buildings and grounds, including setting fees related to facility maintenance.
“We’re not looking to make money on this, we’re looking to cover our costs,” Thompson said. “If we have other people or other groups on our field, we need to maintain those fields at a higher level, because more people are using them…And the outside groups that I’ve talked to that use our fields the most, for the most part have no problem paying a fee to use them. They just want to be able to use them.”
Among the groups interested in using the district’s outdoor athletic facilities are travel soccer and softball teams, along with non-profit organizations. A hardship clause may be considered for groups who can’t afford the $35-hourly fee, even those who accept tuition themselves for membership.
“We can certainly look at it on a case-by-case basis, but for right now, I think the people that use our fields the most and the people that are wanting to us to open it up are…community groups that people pay into,” said Thompson.
The Facilities Committee includes fellow trustees Glenn LaPolt and Johanna Herget; community members Jacob Lawrence, Michael Domitrovits and Matthew Williams; Superintendent Angela Urbina-Medina; Assistant Superintendent for Business Sharifa Carbon; and Director of Facilities Guy Gardner.
LaPolt said the committee found that charging a fee provided equity in scheduling.
“We (might) have three or four groups, large groups that would come in and reserve our fields every Tuesday and Thursday for the entire year, and then they don’t show up,” he said.
In the reservation system, groups would pay their scheduling fees up front
“So that way, if they want to reserve ten hours of field time, they need to bring a check for $350,” said Thompson.
The committee is hoping to have a form ready for dissemination by the beginning of March, giving ample time for interested groups to reserve their spot.
“We had a lot of complaints last year that the fields weren’t open, and there was such a shortage of field space (elsewhere in the community) and we just don’t want that to happen again,” said Thompson. “A lot of our teachers and a lot of our staff here are coaches in the community and do other things, and we want to make sure that the community has access to our fields this year.”
Thompson stressed that the district’s indoor facilities are not included in the planned spring openings, but will be reevaluated at the start of the 2022-23 school year.