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Scouts, Guides told to pay for space

Jun 2, 2000
By Dave Milne - Staff Writer
Scarborough Mirror

Scouts, Girl Guides and other non-profit youth organizations will be forced to ante up for the use of Toronto public school board facilities.

But the hit could be less than expected, provided City Hall cooperates.

After initially considering charging youth groups the same $11.40 per-hour average charge the city has agreed to pay for the use of schools for recreational programs. Toronto District School Board trustees agreed Wednesday to cut a deal in which the groups would pay a maximum of $5.70 per hour over a three-year phase-in period.

However, the special deal is contingent upon the city's approval.

The city had wanted to share in any lower fee structure the board worked out with other groups, a consideration the board cannot afford, said chair Gail Nyberg.

Nyberg said it will now be up to councillors to decide if they are also willing to give special consideration to the scouts, guides and others.

If the city demands the same low rate, Nyberg said the board will be forced to throw out the special deal it struck on Wednesday, and simply charge everyone the same $11.40 rate.

"I'm hopeful they can see tbeir way clear to agreeing to this," she said. "I think the councillors realize this is an important service that is provided by volunteers."

"I think that's the best compromise we could come up with."

The board had said it must begin charging more for after-hours use of schools because the provincial funding model does not provide any money for such purposes. The permit fee structure approved on Wednesday will be phased in beginning in September, and includes varying charges for six different categories of users.

Users range from students, student councils and board union groups (free) to private enterprises ($22.80 per hour), and commercial enterprises like film companies, which will be charged at full market value.

Scouts, guides and other youth groups have sometimes been required to pay a minor administrative fee for the use of school facilities in the past, but this will be the flrst time they have been asked to foot an hourly rate.

In presentations to trustees, representatives of Toronto area Guides and Scouts said being hit with the full $11.40 rate would almost certainly wreak havoc on their individual organizations, both contending the new charge would force them to shell out more than $200,000 per year each.

"We're not saying we want a free ride, but we really feel we can't afford the $11.40 rate," said Guide official Charis Kelso. "We've done the math and it translates into something we can't pay."

Adam Whyte, the director of field services for Scouts Canada, said there are currently 123 sections or scout troops operating in Scarborough with memberships ranging from 10 to 30 youngsters.

Although he said the half-price rate the board has allowed is appreciated, Whyte said it is no panacea. It will still cost the approximately 5,100 Scouts across the city an additional $100,000 per year, adding that will put more pressure on fund-raising efforts.

"Is this going to make it easier? No," he said. "Is it going to put more pressure on our volunteers? Yes."

Louise Fast, the area co-commissioner for Girl Guides of Canada, agreed the new hourly fee will make it tough on her organization as well, but said she was satisfied with the cut rate. The guides acknowledge they should pay something, but were not in a position to fund the full $11.40, she said.

"The compromise was basically what we asked for," Fast said. "Essentially, we got what we wanted."

Scarborough Councillor Brian Ashton, the head of the city's economic deve1opment committee, said it is noble of the board to give youth groups like the Scouts and Guides a better deal, but questioned where the line can be drawn with other groups.

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