Elk Grove Unified School District trustees unanimously agreed late Tuesday to hold graduation ceremonies at Golden 1 Center, but they aren’t certain what it will cost.
The contract between Golden 1 Center and the school district calls for a base $70,000 license fee and “additional fees” to hold commencement ceremonies May 22-24 for its nine high schools.
If a recent contract between Golden 1 Center and Sacramento State is any indication, the final bill could exceed $100,000.
Sacramento State’s contract for six graduation ceremonies over two days initially required a base fee of $50,000 with an estimate of $140,595 in additional fees – for a $190,595 total, nearly three times what the university paid the year before at Sleep Train Arena. The city of Sacramento ultimately forgave the base $50,000 fee.
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The additional costs are for items like traffic management, camera operators, lighting and stagehands. Both the university and Elk Grove Unified will get an additional day of use at the facility for set-up.
While Sacramento State provided a projection for its add-on costs, Elk Grove Unified did not have that information publicly available Wednesday.
“The additional costs will be determined in the final invoice,” said district spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton.
Board member Nancy Chaires Espinoza said she wasn’t given an estimate of additional costs and didn’t know the contract would exceed $70,000. She began contacting school officials about her concerns about the contract after being contacted by The Sacramento Bee.
“I don’t want to end up in the same situation as Sacramento State,” she said Wednesday. “We will do whatever we can to advocate on behalf of our district.”
The EGUSD board approved the contract Tuesday night as part of its consent calendar, which means the board approved it without any discussion.
“The board has been apprised regularly on the graduation ceremony plans,” Pinkerton said in an email.
Elk Grove Unified paid $80,000 to rent Sleep Train Arena for its graduation ceremonies last May. It paid outside vendors an additional $16,000 for lighting, stagehands, catering and to rent ramps.
Funding for the graduation ceremonies come from ticket sales, the district’s general fund and school contributions. The district increased ticket prices to $10 this year for students requesting more than their free allotment of six.
Traditionally, a percentage of ticket sales is returned to the schools. Pinkerton said the amount returned this year will be determined when the district determines its final cost.
Elk Grove Unified, the region’s largest school district, is the only K-12 district so far that has agreed to hold high school ceremonies at the new Golden 1 Center. Many other high schools use Memorial Auditorium or their own campuses.
The Elk Grove district is renting the facility at cost, according to the Sacramento Kings.
“Elk Grove Unified School District has been a tremendous partner for 14 years and we’re thrilled they want to extend their tradition with ceremonies at Golden 1 Center,” said the Kings organization in a statement.
Sacramento State’s lengthy contract negotiation with Golden 1 Center left many students anxious because they didn’t know where and when they would walk across the stage. The university and Golden 1 Center came to an agreement just nine weeks before their scheduled ceremonies.
There has been no such frustration in Elk Grove Unified, where most of the high schools announced graduation dates and times long before the school board approved the Golden 1 Center contract.
The controversy over the size of the CSUS bill led the city of Sacramento to donate three of the days it is allotted annually for civic events to the university, resulting in the $50,000 reduction.
Pinkerton defended the district’s decision to vote on the contract just seven weeks before the commencement ceremonies.
“Traditionally, the board approves the current year’s graduation ceremony venue contract in mid-March or early April,” she said. “As soon as the Golden 1 (Center) contract terms have been completed, it will go before the board for their approval as is customary.”
Last year, the school district approved its contract for Sleep Train Arena on Feb. 17.