WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County School Board member Alexandria Ayala asked district staff about its leasing policy and the reasoning behind it during a school board meeting Wednesday evening.
“I brought this up because I’ve been contacted by some community organizations and community leaders,” she said.
Her questions come after Contact 5 recently showed you how the district changed its leasing policy and raised the rent last summer in the midst of the pandemic.
“I do appreciate the story brought to light that changes were made that were not clarified clearly,” Ayala said.
The director of the department that oversees leasing for the district recently told Contact 5 that the changes are because the district is trying to recover “utilities and maintenance costs” and “ensure adequate supervision of the spaces that are being rented.”
“What we found when I first got here in 2016, is that at the end of the lease, sometimes schools were having to take money out of their own coffers to cover the lease being in their building,” Superintendent Donald Fennoy said during the meeting.
The changes now require all facilities listed on a lease to be rented for the same number of hours and a 2-hour minimum for leases on non-school days.
A summer camp owner said the changes would have raised his rent 500%.
"We were (paying) about $3,000 a week to lease this facility here in Jupiter," Scott Yebba, the owner of SportsTyme Summer Camp told Contact 5. Contact 5 asked him what the school district wants to charge him now. "I had the bookkeeper (run) the lease, and it would be $14,600 a week," he said.
"Anytime you make a leasing, or a change to the rate schedule nobody likes it, I mean that's the reality of it." district Chief Operating Officer Wanda Paul said. "Because we did not have the summer of 2020 to kind of phase in the program, or phase in this new rate schedule, it's kind of hitting people by surprise and we probably could have done a better job of communicating that," she said.
Ayala wasn’t on the board when the vote and changes took place last summer but said the discussion is just beginning.
“I think that this needs to be revisited to make sure that on a more case by case basis, analyzing services and needs in our community, we’re providing the best possible rates for our lessees,” she said.