Public use of state facilities covered by law
On Sundays, a lot of congregations use state facilities such as schools or libraries to conduct their services. How much do they pay for use of the facilities?
Answer: The fee schedule for use of Department of Education facilities, including school rooms, gymnasiums, athletic fields, libraries, etc., is covered under Chapter 39 of the Board of Education's administrative rules, found by going to the board's Web site at www.boe.k12.hi.us and clicking on "Documents Library."
Almost all you ever wanted to know about the use of school facilities can be found at fssb.k12.hi.us/use_of_facilities.htm, said department spokesman Greg Knudsen.
The Web site explains that the public, including church groups, may use school facilities and grounds "as long as the requested activities do not interfere with normal school operations."
Rental fees are listed. Fees for an auditorium, for example, are $43.20 an hour; gymnasiums, $30 an hour; libraries, $13 an hour; and classrooms, from a high of $15.49 an hour for one-time use up to three months, to a low of $1.55 an hour for 10 to 12 months of use.
There are also charges for utilities, custodial service, use of parking lots, etc.
As we noted in a previous column about church usage (Kokua Line, Feb. 4, 2000), religious groups cannot rent a facility for more than five years.
The intent of the provision, Knudsen explained, is to prevent churches from using school facilities on a permanent basis and thus avoid "an excessive entanglement with religion" by the state.
He cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971, in which the high court said three questions should be answered in determining the constitutionality of leasing school facilities to religious groups after school hours.
The questions deal with whether state laws on leasing school facilities have a secular legislative purpose, whether the laws either advance or inhibit religion, and whether the laws foster an excessive entanglement with religion, according to an opinion by the state attorney general in 1986 to then-Superintendent of Education Francis Hatanaka.
Use for more than five years, or a renewal after a break, would not be consistent with the Supreme Court rulings or show evidence that a church is working to secure its own facility, Knudsen said.
Meanwhile, the administrative rules say that the school principal or designee is responsible for collecting the fees, which are then deposited into a special fund. "Statutory special fund assessments" are deducted from the fees collected.
Of the remaining funds, 70 percent go to the school and 30 percent to the school district. However, 100 percent of funds collected for custodial services and utilities are reimbursed to the school.
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