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Gateway board declines to revise rental fee

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 1:17 p.m.

A majority of the Gateway School Board last week rejected an attempt to lower the rental fee for the Gateway High School auditorium. Meanwhile, a local performing arts group has joined two others that have decided to take their money elsewhere.

Citing the increased Gateway rental fee, the Monroeville-based Larry Cervi School of Performing Arts has relocated its 2013 dance recital from Gateway to Norwin High School. The show is scheduled for June 1.

“It's disappointing for all of us,” said Kim Merge, co-owner of Larry Cervi School of Performing Arts.

“Most (of our) students come from Gateway. They love the convenience of it.”

School directors Bob Elms, Skip Drumheller and Dan Nowak voted in favor of lowering the rental fee from $800 to $300 per hour.

“It seems like we're covering our fixed costs, we're covering our variable costs, we've got contract language in here, and if there's a problem with the use of the facility, we have recourse on that,” Drumheller said.

“To my mind, it seems like we can move on this.”

He was in the minority. The six other board members voted against altering the rental policy that was adopted earlier this year.

According to figures presented by Elms that resemble those of neighboring high school auditoriums, $300 per hour would cover operational costs such as heat and electricity and include a $100-per-hour service fee.

School Director Steve O'Donnell said the rates should be higher.

“We don't really know that the numbers that were gathered by the administration reflect quality of the capital investment of the facilities, the seating capacity, whether they include the depreciation … I think they were just numbers.”

Elms said it's unreasonable to factor in the cost of building the auditorium 12 years ago.

“I think you have to find something that's a reasonable compromise,” Elms said. “If you don't bring anybody in, you don't earn any money at all.”

Two groups — the River City Brass and the Pittsburgh International Children's Theater — have rescheduled performances that initially were to have been held in the Gateway auditorium. Both found cheaper performance space in the eastern suburbs.

The children's theater group would have paid $800 per hour in addition to the hourly cost of district employees such as a custodian and site manager. The group relocated to Linton Middle School in Penn Hills for a cost of $400 to rent the auditorium in addition to $40-per-hour custodial and $40-per-hour site manager fees, according to the Penn Hills School District planned services department.

Organizers of the Larry Cervi recital applied last summer to rent the auditorium this June for their annual recital, Merge said.

Their application initially was denied with the words “No outside rentals” handwritten across the top.

Then, district officials allowed them to reapply, but they were told a final decision on the rental fee would be made in December. But to allow families enough time to plan for the recital and to avoid a potential hike in ticket prices due to increased rental fees, organizers decided to relocate the June 1 recital to Norwin High School.

A committee at Gateway made up of O'Donnell and School Directors Janice Rawson and Jim Capell are discussing the current rental fees. The next voting meeting is scheduled for Dec. 5 in the board room of the administrative offices.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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