Meeting rooms no longer free at Naperville municipal center
Groups looking to rent meeting space at Naperville's municipal center now will have to pay a price.
Free room rental is coming to an end as the city council approved a policy of charging $30 or $60 to rent meeting spaces at the municipal center, police station or public works center.
"I do think it's a very reasonable cost," said council member Judith Brodhead, who was one of six to vote in favor of the new fees during a meeting Tuesday night.
The move is expected to generate $25,000 a year at a time when the city is about to delve into its 2016 budget looking at a $1.8 million deficit. The city also has $120 million in debt and is $18 million below the amount of reserves it is required by policy to have.
Since room rental fees will bring in a relatively small amount, council members Rebecca Boyd-Obarski and Patty Gustin said they aren't yet sure the charge is necessary. Boyd-Obarski suggested going through next year's budget process first to see if other cuts can be made to avoid charging nonprofits, cultural groups and others to use meeting spaces.
But in the effort to make ends meet without using reserves to fill budget gaps -- as the city has done for about the past 10 years -- Mayor Steve Chirico said every dollar helps.
He said the city plans not only to raise fees so users of city services are covering the cost of providing those services, but also to cut costs to fill the $1.8 million hole.
"If we find more fees or savings than our goal, then that can be used toward debt reduction and that would be a good thing," Chirico said.
Council member John Krummen joined Boyd-Obarski and Gustin in voting against the rental fees, which will charge $30 to rent the lunchroom, meeting room A or meeting room B on the lower level of the municipal center and $60 to rent both meeting rooms A and B at the same time.
"The residents paid for this facility. They own the mortgage. And now we're going to charge them to use this?" Krummen said. "That is wrong to me."
The council approved the fees over the objection of a handful of residents, mostly members of nonprofit groups who use the municipal center for meetings. City Manager Doug Krieger said all groups who apply to rent a room will be treated equally when the new fees are imposed; nonprofits will not be granted free rental.
An original fee proposal that would have charged $60 for meeting room A and B individually or $120 to rent both at the same time was lowered before Tuesday's vote. The original proposal was designed to cover the cost of setup, takedown and cleaning for the chairs and tables in the rooms. Chirico said the fees approved Tuesday don't cover all of the city's costs, but it will help lower the expense of providing meeting space.