Best Practices and Tips for Districts Communicating New SB1404:School Property-Civic Center Act Fees

I had the recent opportunity to develop a presentation and handouts for a client regarding California SB1404: School Property-Civic Center Act, which, in September 2012, the California State Legislature approved amendments to the Civic Center Act (more information about SB 1404 can be found here.)

With SB 1404 approved, your district is eagerly anticipating new revenue to fund facilities’ repairs from the new direct fees that will be charged to its facilities users.  New policies and fees have been approved by the board, new forms have been developed, and…wait…how did you communicate the new fees to your facility users?  Here are a few tips and practices to remember when considering the smooth implementation of your district’s new fees.

One very important thing I cannot emphasize enough is, communicating early and often, and including stakeholders in the process, will help in retaining and maintaining these critical relationships with your district’s community partners!  This is so important when communicating new fees to your district’s stakeholders.  So, here are some tips to help ease the transition of implementing new fees for your district’s facilities.

Timing Matters

Chances are, your facility users are already collecting their own fees for their programs…based on last year’s fees (unless your district already notified them of the new fees earlier this year).  They based their budgeting and communications on last year’s fees, and approaching them with information about your new fees, now, would put a huge monkey wrench into their operations.  Or, perhaps you are still in the process of developing new fees—your users should be aware that there are changes on the horizon so that they can plan accordingly.  Considering that these users have been and continue to be your district’s partners, consider developing and implementing a communication plan—based on both your district’s timelines for adopting the new fees, as well as a timeline that takes your facilities users’ timelines into consideration—for informing your current and future facility users not only about the fees, but also educating them and including them in the process of developing the new fees.

Relationships Matter

Your district’s community has and will continue to be comprised of the people who your district relies upon to approve facilities bonds and parcel taxes…so, when your district develops new fees on the very buildings their tax dollars are helping to fund, make sure that you take care of your relationships.  One day, you will be approaching them about upgrading the same facilities (or building new ones), and seeking their approval of funding those upgrades.  So, when approaching communications about the new fees, highlight the following: “We are protecting your investment by incorporating fees that ensure that our community facilities are safe, in good repair and in good working order for youth and community activities.”

Educating Matters

When communicating about the new fees, include stakeholders early in the process—preferably before adopting new fees.

  • Hold meetings (either one on one or in larger groups, depending on the number of stakeholders) with representatives of existing facility users, community leaders/managers, and district staff who will be involved with implementing the new fees.  Notify your local media, as well.
  • Provide information about SB 1404, including an estimate of the amount of money your district has spent annually on funding the repairs from community use, and how the new fees can only be charged for direct costs and used toward direct costs related to users’ facility use.
  • Provide stakeholders with the information about how new fees will be calculated, along with an estimate of how much more their group will likely need to pay (pending board approval on new fees), if possible.
  • Obtain stakeholder input on the new fees, as well as any other input on your district’s facilities use permitting process (this is a great opportunity to obtain customer service feedback!).
  • Provide stakeholders information on how the new fees can legally be used (designated in a special fund for purposes described in SB1404).
  • Once the new fees have been approved, communicate the information (including the process) about SB 1404 and the new fees to stakeholders and the local media.

Need more assistance with communicating SB1404 or other changes in your district?  Contact me for more information about how we can work together to obtain, maintain, retain, and strengthen your district’s stakeholder relationships.

About Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan increases public confidence in public education and improves opportunities for non-profit organizations to succeed through proactive communication and marketing. She provides strategic marketing and communication services that exceed her clients’ unique goals and delivers results that motivate audiences to act, change, and/or otherwise change behaviors for a greater good.

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