Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Oconee County Board Of Education Wants Phase-In Of Any Fees Charged To County For Use Of School Athletic Facilities

***Suggests A Three-Year Contract***

The Oconee County Board of Education pushed back at least slightly last evening on a proposal by school administrators to begin charging the county Parks and Recreation Department fees for use of school athletic facilities on July 1.

School Superintendent Jason Branch, as part of a discussion of a new Joint Use Agreement between the county and Oconee County Schools, said he was seeking Board input on the length of a new agreement and on whether the Board wants to begin charging the county a fee for use of school athletic facilities.

The Board took no vote, but the consensus of those who spoke up was that the schools should begin charging a fee but it should be phased in, probably over three years, and that the new contract also should run no longer than three years.

The Board did not give any indication whether it thought the fees proposed by Branch and his staff were the right ones, but it also did not suggest that those fees were too high.

School Board Member Tim Burgess pushed back hard on the suggestion that the attempt to begin charging the county for use of school sports facilities was connected to the dispute between the school system and the county over other issues, including roundabouts on Malcom Bridge Road.

Burgess praised the school administrators for looking at the costs of the county’s use of the sports fields and coming forward with what he called “professional work behind the scenes” to improve the operation of the school system.

Proposed New Contract

Dallas LeDuff, director of student services for Oconee County Schools, in making his presentation to the Board yesterday, said he was seeking Board “guidance on our new facilities use agreement.”

Branch 3/2/2020

The previous 10-year agreement is set to expire on June 30, LeDuff said.

“Due to the increasing demand on our facilities, and at the Board’s request, we have conducted a study to better understand the direct cost associated with the facilities use,” LeDuff said.

LeDuff said the school system had contracted with Facilitron, a national firm that does work on Georgia, to study use of the school system’s facilities and costs.

“They are a company that provides a facility management platform that streamlines facility scheduling and rental requests for schools while also providing real-time data on the cost of the utilization,” LeDuff said.

Facilitron used a formula developed by two nonprofit organizations to make the estimates of costs, LeDuff said.

LeDuff showed the Board a chart showing that said the Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department is using school sports facilities for 2,836 hours in 2020, that the school system would charge the county $137,440 for that use under the proposed fee structure, and Facilitron said the real cost was $160,777.

Use by the county of school system sports facilities increased from 2,443 hours in 2018 to the 2,836 figure this year, LeDuff’s chart showed. LeDuff later said that figure had been 1,385 hours in 2013-2014.

Proposed New Contract

Oconee County Schools also uses county facilities, and LeDuff told Board Member Kim Argo he “calculated about 440 total hours” is the current school year use. LeDuff later said that mostly was for middle school softball teams.

Burgess 3/2//2020

“At this point,” LeDuff said. “I’d like to update you on where we are with our negotiations for the new agreement.”

LeDuff said he met with Lisa Davol, director of Oconee County Parks and Recreation, on Oct. 10, Nov. 21 and Dec. 17 and “we’ve also had numerous conversations and emails in that time period as well.

“During those meeting we discussed a range of topics, including usage fees, maintenance and insurance,” LeDuff said. “The director of Oconee County Parks and recreation was provided a draft...of this agreement on the Nov. 21 meeting,” he added.

LeDuff said “I know Dr. Branch has also discussed the new agreement with the county administrator. We have worked, the director of the parks and recreation and myself, we have worked collaboratively with the simplified language in the usage agreement as well as to capture our current practices.”

Justin Kirouac is the Oconee County administrator.

“The school staff and the county staff are in agreement in terms of the language in that contract,” LeDuff said.

Board Response

“I would not be for, myself, any full-cost assessments,” Board Chairman Tom Odom said once LeDuff was finished with his report. “I’m not for that. I would be discounting, maybe, which I think is a good faith gesture.

Odom 3/2/2020

“And, if there’s any cost, I think it needs to be phased in,” Odom said.

Bagley, referring to the old 10-year agreement, said “I don’t think the intent of this agreement really anticipated the increased usage. I think it was probably the intent was, in my opinion, to assist the rec department as they grew as well. And so its become more of a given instead of a stop gap now.”

“I don’t have any problem with their using our facilities,” Bagley said, “but I think it’s the fair thing to be compensated for the usage that is there. I agree with Mr. Odom that I don’t think we should get this all at once.

“I think it should be phased in,” Bagley said. “And I think it would be discounted. I don’t see any reason to charge them the full amount of the Facilitron cost study. Again, that’s cooperation between the two governing bodies.”

“What you’re highlighting is something that maybe we just haven’t really been thinking about but obviously has been occurring,” Board Member Tim Burgess said.

“You’re highlighting something that has grown exponentially, probably to your (Bagley’s) point, has gone well past what anybody would have anticipated or expected and is now a true expense within the school system’s operations just to maintain those facilities for a user that’s not an academic program sponsored by the schools,” Burgess continued.

Explanation For Request

“It is my understanding that this all came about as a normal course of business because the contract was nearing its end and 10 years is a long time and a lot of changes,” Board Member Amy Parrish said to LeDuff.

Argo And Parrish 3/2/2020

“We talked about this as early as last spring and the need to amend that date and make sure we had a new agreement before that November cut-off period,” LeDuff responded. The contract expires in November, but, consistent with the provisions of the contract, the school system has moved the expiration forward to June 30.

“I really want to say to you and Jason both how much we appreciate you bringing this issue up,” Burgess said. “That’s what you expect your professional staff to do–is to know what’s going, to do the professional work behind the scenes and then forward to a body like ours some suggestions, some ideas about how the operation has been working, how we improve it.”

“I’m vaguely aware some representations have been made that this is punitive or it is trying to be punishing of certain groups of people,” Burgess said. “And I think that’s about as far from reality as anything could possibly be. You’ve done exactly what we would expect you to do and analyzed what the financial situations of our operation are and suggest ideas about how to improve that or better prepare us.”

At the Board of Commissioners meeting last week, Commissioner Chuck Horton said “I don’t know if it’s a tit for tat with the school system with their issues with us, but to put it on families and kids when these youngsters are moving up through our rec program, play at the middle school and high school. I just think its unfortunate.”

At present, the issue is scheduled to be on the agenda for the Board of Education meeting next week. It also is on the Board of Commissioners agenda for tonight.


At the beginning of the meeting, the Board cleared the front of the meeting room and recognized the Oconee County High School Football Team as AAAA State Runner-up.

Eighty-eight individual students were recognized.

Head Coach Travis Noland joined the team members and was saluted by the Board.

The Board also recognized LeAnne Hale, the March Pursuit of Excellence Award Winner/Student Services.


The video below is of the March 2 meeting of the Board of Education.

The recognition of the football team is at 00:33 in the video.

The recognition of Hale is at 8:31 in the video

LeDuff came to the podium to speak at 16:30 in the video.

LeDuff responded to questions regarding the county’s fee structure for use of its facilities in a way that confused me.

I asked him for clarification after the meeting, and he said that the county has a fee structure for use of its athletic facilities but that it has not charged the school system for use of those facilities in the past and has indicated it does not plan to do so under a new joint use agreement.

That is consistent with what Davol and Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell have said.


Dan Magee said...


Do you know where on the OCSS website the Facilitron cost study is published?

Quick note: In Georgia, majority of Memorandums of Understanding between school systems and city/county parks & rec departments for shared facility usage is for a length of ten years. Three years would be the first of its kind.

Lee Becker said...

I'm working on this.

Jeanne Barsanti said...

So, one taxing authority charges another taxing authority which prompts that taxing authority to charge the first taxing authority. Any who pays for all this, the taxpayer. Why cannot these 2 groups work together? The Parks and Rec Program helps the schools (after school programs, sports development programs) and the schools help the parks by allowing the parks to use fields when school is not, maximizing use of resources. The taxpayer pays for both already. Maybe we need new board members in both groups that understand the need for cooperation.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm not sure why OC is struggling with the feeder program concept. These are OC kids who will playing on OC teams. They are even divided based on which side of the county they live on.
This will probably open a can of worms as there has been inconsistencies with who can use facilities, which teams, premiere teams-rec teams, the price, the "agreement". There have been a lot of favors over the years in this department. The community expects organizations that use tax dollars to work together and to be above board.

John Gentry said...

Unfortunately I am unable to present in person so I emailed the BOC and BOE last night:

Post 1 of 2
Members of the Board of Education:
Let me apologize for not being able to attend your meeting on Monday to deliver my remarks in person as I am in Texas visiting some of my Soldiers conducting pre-training for an overseas deployment. I am submitting my response to your consideration to significantly increase fees for OCPRD (ultimately citizen participants) use of school facilities. As one of the individuals who drafted the previous Joint Use Agreement in conjunction with Dr. Jackson (with both boards input and ultimate approval), I feel led to provide my disappointment in your intended discussion and ask that you re-consider the path you are heading.
I realize very few people now work for OCS, sit on the BOE or the BOC, that were present for discussion and development of the previous Joint use agreement and hopefully I can provide some intended background. Dr. Jackson and I both believed in maximizing the use of county facilities (recreation and Schools) in order to keep from having to build more facilities for programs (recreation and school) use. The targeted facilities were elementary gyms, middle school gyms, football stadiums/Fields with Lights/multi-purpose fields and girls fast pitch fields as OCPRD did not have enough of an inventory to support current and projected participation levels and middle school programs did not have softball fields and other school programs would only grow as well. Again, the thought process was to maximize the use of existing county infrastructure knowing that building the amount of facilities required to support programming at the recreation/school level for county citizens would be cost prohibitive for the foreseeable future. With the highest percent of recreational participants being under the age of 10, we also tried our best to program the youngest players for the earliest time slots and avoid Wednesdays for younger participants and families. These programming parameters are unique to our community and a primary driver for why school facilities were and are essential to facilitate recreational programming in our community. This programming plan was intentional in an attempt not to keep younger participants out late on school nights and allow families to have their own time or opportunity to attend a church program on Wednesday. It was identified that OCPRD would obviously use more of school facilities than school programs would use park facilities; however, by developing a joint use agreement, we felt that this was sustainable for school programs such as FFA, 4H, cross Country, HS/MS Softball Tournaments, MS softball programs, Soccer 7V7 tournaments, volleyball tournaments, OCS school administrator and teacher instruction at the community center, school field days, etc.

see post 2 of 2

John Gentry said...

Post 2 of 2
I am a strong believer that the taxpayers (for county and school facilities) are the bill payers for construction and operations of the facilities that OCS and OCPRD are charged with managing. I do not believe in making the same taxpayer pay for public use of the same facilities for common, good sense, public programing. When I say public, I mean programs (school and recreation) that are made available for the 100% of county citizens (open enrollment) that want to participate within the registration and administrative policies of the program. Private league programs that are based in or out of county and/or solicit out of county participants or are for profit entities should and always pay a premium for use of any school or county facility. I do believe that participants should pay for the unique costs of the program (uniforms, officials, equipment) or in school athletic team cases, booster clubs offset these costs. I personally do not believe Oconee Little League should pay for use of recreation fields for the same reasons. I lost that fight years ago.
With the above stated, we (Oconee County citizens) have a unique opportunity to keep costs for all county citizen participants who want to participate at a minimum using the facilities OCPRD has in partnership with OCS. This should be mutually agreed upon by all elected officials (BOE and BOC). Despite what some may think, not everyone in Oconee County achieves the median household income ($77,388). You more than any other body of elected officials should understand this with your review of approximately 20% of enrolled school children are eligible for free or reduced meals. At the end of the day you and the BOC should boast that the purpose of county facilities is to enrich the lives of all citizens and that your partnership to provide low cost after school extracurricular programs (school and recreation) is unwavering and unique to our community.
In summary, I encourage you to reconsider the intended fee increases you plan to assess OCPRD for use of school facilities and I expect the same of the BOC for OCS use of park facilities. This charge will only pass directly to the participants and ultimately will discourage some families from participating. Our lower income families will be most affected. Instead, I encourage you to be bold and not charge at all and demand the same for use of OCPRD facilities. Also, I encourage you to develop an agreement for those facilities that are predominately shared (school and recreation) that splits costs (% use basis) for the replacement and/or renovation of these facilities IOT keep them top notch. These are costs that we as citizens can support and one (using E/SPLOST) that is borne by all who spend money on Oconee County. Be the bold elected officials we want you to be and make Oconee County unique by re-investing in our youth and re-energizing the partnership with the BOC for the good of our community.

John T. Gentry, Jr.
Concerned Oconee County Citizen

Dan Magee said...

Then. Now.


Signed Copy of Facility Joint Use Agreement.pdf
Drafted by then Supt. John Jackson and then OCPRD Director John Gentry, Nov. 2nd, 2010:

"WHEREAS said COUNTY and SCHOOL DISTRICT are authorized to enter into agreements with each other, and to do any and all things necessary or convenient to aid and cooperate in the cultivation of citizenship by providing quality programs and facilities for the community; WHEREAS, parties recognize that joint action and cooperation between COUNTY and SCHOOL DISTRICT will assure the best facilities and services can be provided with the last expenditure of public funds; and
WHEREAS, community use of SCHOOL DISTRICT property and facilities is encouraged by SCHOOL DISTRICT and SCHOOL DISTRICT usage of parks and recreation department facilities is encouraged by COUNTY; and
WHEREAS from 1989 to present, COUNTY and SCHOOL District have formally and informally shared facilities and worked cooperatively to provide mutual services for the citizens of Oconee County and COUNTY has previously allocated funds to enhance multiple SCHOOL DISTRICT facilities for SCHOOL DISTRICT use and citizens participating in recreation programs offered by the county; WHEREAS COUNTY and SCHOOL DISTRICT have had numerous joint us agreements in the past regarding SCHOOL DISTRICT athletic facilities and COUNTY Parks and Recreation facilities and now desire to enter into one Integrated Agreement..."


2020 Joint Use Agreement.2020.pdf
March 2020 from the Oconee County Board of Education:

"This agreement is between the Oconee County Board of Education (hereinafter listed as BOE) and the Oconee County Board of Commissioners (hereinafter listed as BOC). The term of this agreement is three years beginning on July 1, 2020 and ending on June 30, 2023. The purpose of this Agreement is to provide for the joint use of facilities owned and operated by the BOC or the BOE, respectively, for athletic and recreation activities, describing the terms and conditions under which the BOC will use BOE facilities, and the BOE will use BOC facilities. Fees: The BOE will provide the facilities owned/operated by the BOE for BOC athletics activities at the non-profit cost determined by the BOE.
B. The Local Government fee schedule will remain the same during the three-year term of the agreement. In order to phase in the usage fees, the BOE will apply the following discounts to the total fees listed in the fee schedule.
1. Year 1 – 8%
2. Year 2 – 4%
3. Year 3 – 0%"

I like Then much better:
"COUNTY and SCHOOL DISTRICT are authorized to enter into agreements with each other, and to do any and all things necessary or convenient to aid and cooperate in the cultivation of citizenship by providing quality programs and facilities for the community"
"parties recognize that joint action and cooperation between COUNTY and SCHOOL DISTRICT will assure the best facilities and services can be provided with the last expenditure of public funds"