GRAFTON, Mass. — The cost to rent space in the Grafton schools is going up dramatically after the School Committee approved a rate increase Tuesday.
"We tried to increase the rates, yet stay competitive with other districts," Superintendent of Schools James Cummings said.
Under the plan, nonprofit and town-affiliated groups will pay a flat fee of $10 per hour for renting all school facilities with the exception of Grafton High School, compared with the current rate of $1 to $6 per hour. Grafton High facilities — including the auditorium and fields — will cost $20 per hour, plus additional fees for required custodial services and use of field lights.
For-profit and groups not affiliated with the town will pay $35 per hour for all school facilities except Grafton High School. Grafton High rentals will start at $50 per hour for the gym or a classroom to $100 per hour for the fields and $120 per hour for the auditorium, plus additional fees for custodial services and use of field lights.
The move was prompted by the opening of the new Grafton High School and an expected increase in demand for the state-of-the-art facility. Cummings compared the Grafton schools' rental fees with the fees of adjoining towns, discovering that Grafton's rates are far below comparable spaces.
Under the former rate, a for-profit group paid $25 per hour to use the Grafton High auditorium. That same rental costs $150 in Auburn, $75 at Nipmuc Regional High School, $40 plus utility fees in Northbridge and $125 in Westborough. While it cost $4 per hour to rent a gym, other towns charge $42 to $75 per hour.
School Committee member Teri Turgeon was the lone vote against the fee increase.
"I guess my issue is, the town paid for this building," she said, referring to Grafton High. "Why should they pay a higher rate for using this building?"