District hikes rent on instruments

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Education: Fee increase to cover rising costs of repairs

By Tris DeRoma

For all those aspiring musicians out there in the Los Alamos Public Schools system, the school board has some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is, it recently voted to raise the rental fees for school instruments by $20, making the price $100 to rent an instrument from the district per school year and $50 for the summer. Percussionists, who never had to pay a rental fee, will now have to pay $20 a year for the privilege.

The good news is the rental rates haven’t been raised since the 80s, and the $20 hike should be more than adequate to take care of repairs for quite a while.

“We decided on $20 because it was a nice round number that would be adequate for repair and maintenance of the instruments,” said Kim Lettellier, the school system’s music staff team leader. “This should prevent us from having to nickel and dime parents every year.”

During an interview with the school board, Lettellier also noted that $100 a year is still quite a bargain.

“To rent a violin some place else, it would cost students about $15 a month. That’s a basic fee, anywhere you go,” she said. “ … It is quite a service we are providing to the community.”

Lettellier also noted to the board that all the rental money goes into a special fund designed for just the purpose of maintaining the instruments

“We do not ask for any money out of operational funds to support the repair of musical instruments,” Lettellier said. She added that the reason for the raise had to do with the rising costs of repair, “which occasionally can be pretty significant,” she said, noting that just a valve cleaning and alignment on a baritone horn can cost about $150.

Speaking of baritones and other not-so-portable instruments, Lettellier said those that rent one instrument at school and another for home will get a break. For the second instrument, she said the price will remain at $80 for the year and $40 for the summer.

“We do recognize that $40 may impose a hardship and that’s what we want to avoid,” Lettelier told the school board.

Though the board was unanimous when it came to raising the fees, they did have questions about the implementation of a new fee for the percussionists. Lettellier’s original proposal was to start charging the percussionists $50 a year, but some members of the board objected.

White Rock board member Melanie McKinley did not think it would be fair to the percussionists and suggested they charge the percussionists $20.

“I would recommend just $20 this time, just because you’re raising all the other instruments by $20,” McKinley said.
Board President Kevin Honnell asked why the percussionists weren’t charged in the first place and Lettellier said she wasn’t sure.

She revealed that the new middle school band instructor did find documents stating that percussionists were supposed to be charged a fee, but no one knows why it was never implemented.