The Bega Valley’s smallest school may be unable to afford the hire costs of a community hall it has used for decades for creative arts programs.
An online petition has over 100 signatures from former Tanja Public School pupils, parents and community members, and over 50 comments showing concern the per annum fee proposed by council is beyond the school’s budget.
The current cost of $300 per 24 session fee, would be paid twice throughout a school year, and doubled to $600 per school year, the petitions states.
Until recently Tanja Public School would maintain the grounds of the Tanja School of Arts Hall in exchange for use of the space for weekly drama lessons.
However, the new fees to be paid will cover maintenance costs.
An email from the hall committee printed in a school newsletter states during a review of all halls by the hall committee and council it was decided the previous payment arrangement “provided considerably more benefit to the school than to the hall”.
The email states concessions to costs will be made for fundraising and free community events.
An email from the Tanja Hall Committee in response to questions stated it does not set hall hire fees, and the volunteers have “always tried to do our best for the whole community”.
The small community has shared their thoughts via the online petition.
“As a former Tanja student I have great memories of school activities at the hall, never damaging or disrespectful, and am saddened that current and future students will be denied the right of access due to an unwarranted increase in fees,” Eamonn Jackson said, one of many similar sentiments.
Other small schools without a hall that are affected by the changes are Quaama, Wolumla and Towamba.
Wolumla principal Peter Claxton said, while his school can afford the increase, he does feel for schools who may struggle to pay the amount.
“The thing for a small school is that because we don’t have halls, it is nice to use that community space for kids, but we understand council has a responsibility to ratepayers,” he said.
Council is currently seeking public comment on the new fees and charges for the next financial year, covering the use of community halls by schools, Tanja Hall and the Bermagui Community Centre, which was extended to August 7.
“All users of community halls are expected to contribute, via the hire fees, to the operations and maintenance of the hall,” council’s manager of community, culture and information Simon Schweitzer said.
Mr Schweitzer said fees are set in consultation with hall committees and council’s general halls committee, and said council had stepped in to help clarify hall fee issues between the school and the committee.
“Earlier this year council staff had conversations with both the school and the hall committee to clarify a hire issue at the hall,” he said.