Public property, equipment and funds
Published May 2013
The Iowa Constitution prohibits the use of public property, equipment, or funds for private purposes unless a usage fee is charged. See Article 3, § 31, and Iowa Code section 297.9 below.
I.C.A. Const. Art. 3, § 31
§ 31. Extra compensation – payment of claims – appropriations for local or private purposes
No extra compensation shall be made to any officer, public agent, or contractor, after the service shall have been rendered, or the contract entered into; nor, shall any money be paid on any claim, the subject matter of which shall not have been provided for by preexisting laws, and no public money or property shall be appropriated for local, or private purposes, unless such appropriation, compensation, or claim, be allowed by two-thirds of the members elected to each branch of the general assembly.
Iowa Code section 297.9 Use for other than school purposes
The board of directors of any school district may authorize the use of any schoolhouse and its grounds within the district for the purpose of meetings of lodges, agricultural societies, and similar societies, for parent-teacher associations, for community recreational activities, community education programs, election purposes, other meetings of public interest, public forums and similar community purposes; provided that such use shall in no way interfere with school activities; such use to be for such compensation and upon such terms and conditions as may be fixed by said board for the proper protection of the schoolhouse and the property belonging therein, including that of pupils, except that in the case of community education programs, any compensation necessary for programs provided specifically by community education and not those provided through community education by other agencies or organizations shall be compensated from the funding provided for community education programs.
Here are a few examples of application of these statutes to school districts:
- Can public schools allow for-profit groups to use public school facilities at no charge?
No, you must charge a usage fee to groups using the facilities for private purposes. Additionally, you should check with your insurance carrier about any liabilities that may result from allowing this usage.
- Can public schools allow students to borrow school equipment for personal use at no charge?
No, you must charge a usage fee. Additionally, you should check with your insurance carrier about any liabilities that may result from allowing this usage.
- Can public schools use a school district’s student activities account to purchase entry fees for a private/nonschool sponsored athletic tournament?
No, if the funds are property of the school district, they cannot be used for this private purpose.