LETTER TO THE EDITOR: NY State School Boards Pool Policy Explained

March 24, 2015

To the editor:

It has come to my attention that a letter, written by Ms. Julie Globus, to this publication referred to information provided by the New York State School Boards (NYSSBA) in A Pool, A Board of Education, A House of Cards (dated March 20, 2015). I am the individual at NYSSBA to whom Ms. Globus spoke. The letter did not reflect the information I provided. Rather than go through the painstaking process of explaining all of the misrepresentations made in the letter, I will summarize what I did say to Ms. Globus.

Boards of Education do set the policy and fees associated with community use of school facilities. They do so within the context of state law and regulation. NYSSBA assists districts in developing those policies to comply with the law and to reflect best practice, as well. NYSSBA has extensive experience working in this area and has provided policy guidance to districts for over 20 years. NYSSBA does not, however, make recommendations about the fees because of the unique conditions in each district – the fees are a local decision. NYSSBA has been working with the Clarkstown Board of Education to update its policies, including policy 1500 on Use of Facilities and 2160, School District Officer and Employee Code of Ethics.

In discussing the process of setting the fees, I explained to Ms. Globus that it would be impermissible for the district to make a profit on the pool. Contrary to Ms. Globus’ piece, I did not offer an opinion on any of the following: whether the pool should or could be self-sustaining, whether the current fees should be increased or whether “fair market value” is the reasonable basis for establishing the fee. I did explain that, in my experience, the school district administration proposes the fees to cover the incremental cost of use and then the Board takes action on the recommendation.

As evidenced by the contentiousness of this issue, it should be noted that Clarkstown is not alone in experiencing this, there are many factors that go into the development of policies and in the setting of the fees. The Board is always in the difficult position of balancing competing interests – serving the children of the community, protecting the taxpayers, safeguarding the district’s assets such as facilities – and doing that as transparently and fairly as possible. NYSSBA continues to support the Clarkstown Board in that effort. In order for the community to have a productive conversation, though, it is important not to misrepresent the information provided.

Sincerely,

Linda Bakst
Deputy Director of Policy Services

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