Wake County schools will stop waiving rental fees for churches and other groups

Midtown Community Church met at Martin Middle School on Ridge Road in Raleigh.
Midtown Community Church met at Martin Middle School on Ridge Road in Raleigh. N&O file photo

Churches and other groups that rent space in Wake County schools will no longer get a pass on paying certain fees, after the school system lost out on nearly $1.4 million last year.

Wake charges $20 per hour for cleaning fees because school janitors clean auditoriums and other spaces used by more than 3,000 groups that rent space. That fee is often waived, but school leaders now say groups must pay the money.

“The mess that’s left behind after a group leaves that has to be cleaned up by a regular custodian is time that’s not spent on regular custodial chores,” schools spokesman Tim Simmons said during a school board committee meeting this week.

Many churches that don’t have their own buildings meet in schools, and some might not have a lot of extra money to pay. But some church leaders say they understand the change.

“We are happy to pay a fee to rent Millbrook High School, which enables us to be a part of the community,” said Preston Stack, the Raleigh campus pastor of Elevation Church.

The payment rule will go into effect when each group renews its rental contract. The cleaning fee isn’t increasing, but some groups will have to pay it for the first time.

The school system set the rental rates in 2001, and Simmons said schools have been inconsistent about applying them.

Nonprofit groups must pay $55 an hour to rent an auditorium, and for-profit groups must pay $250. A gymnasium rental costs $72 an hour for nonprofits and $315 an hour for for-profit groups.

All groups pay the same equipment fees, which include a $1-a-day charge for one adult chair, $25 to $50 a day for a TV monitor and $525 a day for an LCD projector.

School board members said they didn’t want the relationships between schools and churches and other groups to be damaged.

“I do think we need to hone in on this, and I think it’s really important we do it,” said board member Roxie Cash. But in “some of the (high)-poverty elementary schools in my district, churches are giving the teachers lots of supplies for their classrooms. I just want to be sure we’re not changing any of those dynamics.”

Pressley Baird: 919-829-8935, @pressleybaird