Carroll Community school leaders decided this week to end a 50-percent discount that Kuemper Catholic schools had received to rent the new athletic stadium, which has drawn the ire of Kuemper parents who pay property taxes to the public school district and who helped pass crucial votes to build the stadium and bolster the district’s budget.
The district’s school board unanimously approved an updated rental policy Monday that will require Kuemper to pay the full $200-per-hour stadium rate for football games. Last year, Kuemper paid about $100 per hour at the new stadium in an agreement with then-Superintendent Kevin Lein.
That meant when Kuemper used the Carroll Athletic Field for a varsity football game in August 2018, it paid the public district $400 for about four hours of use, said Gary Bengtson, the director of business affairs at the Carroll Community School District. Under the new policy, Kuemper will pay the full hourly rate, which also carries a minimum fee of $500 and a maximum of $900.
“The problem with this (old) policy is it was put together without any experience,” Bengtson said. “It was done before football season, and we hadn’t even started renting it — we didn’t even know what our costs would be.”
The school district paid $484 in staffing costs alone for the first varsity football game this school year, Bengtson said.
The higher costs come partially from custodial work, he said. Not only is the school district having to pay custodians to clean more bathrooms, but they also are being paid overtime to do it.
“When we pay the custodians to clean that stadium, they are all on overtime. We have to pay them their overtime,” Bengtson said. “We aren’t in it to make money; we just want to cover our costs that we have. It is expensive to clean that up.”
Operational costs from games this year ranged in price from more than $400 to an estimated $800. But adding up costs other than custodian payment such as garbage removal, electricity, water and other utilities means the district might be paying more than $800 for one night at the stadium, according to Bengtson.
But two residents who are affiliated with Kuemper spoke against the increased fees at Monday’s meeting. Kuemper alumnus Tom Simons said board members need to be more considerate of the parochial school.
“I’m sure you guys are aware that half of the property taxes paid in Carroll County are going to this school district,” he said. “We, as Kuemper fans, are part of those taxpayers. You have to realize that, too. Our money is going into this stadium and these workers just as much as the Carroll High fans are.”
The support of Kuemper-affiliated voters was seen as key in establishing an instructional support levy — which passed with 53 percent of the vote in 2014 — and to construct the stadium, which was approved by 75 percent of voters in 2017.
The instructional support levy — which is a combination of additional property and income taxes — generates about $1 million each year for the school district and must be renewed every 10 years. Before the successful 2014 vote, Carroll Community was among only nine school districts that didn’t have the levy, out of roughly 340 districts in the state.
A stadium referendum in 2011 garnered only 33-percent support from voters. In 2017, about 75 percent supported it, thanks to a campaign led by Carroll and Kuemper parents and an agreement that the field would be neutral to the teams. Because of that agreement, some Kuemper supporters felt spurned when the Carroll Tiger logo was affixed to the stadium’s video scoreboard and the rest of the stadium was draped in Tiger orange.
School board President Jen Munson said she did not know whether the increase in rental rates for Kuemper would affect Kuemper’s support of future public votes.
“I would hope not,” she told the Carroll Times Herald. “The problems come from social media and people hearing it from the rumor mill. I know the rest of the board appreciates when the community members come to the board meetings.”
Kyle Ulveling, a cardiologist who has two sons at Kuemper and who publicly campaigned for the stadium, also spoke at the meeting, urging board members to maintain a good relationship with the Kuemper community and pushing them to find ways to bring down the stadium’s operational costs.
“I personally don’t expect Carroll (Community Schools) to take a wash as a landlord on an event,” he said. “I also don’t expect the tenant to be soaked with costs that could be saved otherwise.”
Bengtson said the district is willing to work with Kuemper to lower the costs for both schools. For instance, he suggested, some events could be held on just the east side of the stadium, where there are fewer bathrooms and no concession stands.
“We are still willing to visit about some things, because they are such a big user of the facilities,” he said. “We are willing to talk about some things that could lessen their costs. There’s a number of things that we could maybe do that would lessen their costs.”