The cost to swim at the Union Splash-N-Swimplex could increase as soon as the 2020 season.
Parks and Recreation Director Angela Lairmore unveiled a series of proposed rate increases for the aquatics complex at the Oct. 24 meeting of the parks and recreation advisory board. No action was taken — for now.
Lairmore provided the board with a review of the recently finished summer season. She said the pool generated $118,885.08 in total revenue. On the expense side of the ledger, the pool cost the city $191,391.56 for a shortfall of $72,506.48.
Lairmore said the pool is never going to break even. She said her goal is to have a year similar to 2018.
In 2018, the pool lost just $37,034.65. She said the number resulted in a 76.11 percent recovery of expenditures. This year the pool’s recovery was only 62.12 percent.
Moving forward, she said the pool should target an expenditure recovery in the 70 percent range.
A primary factor in the deficit this year was an increase in money spent on staff. The city spent $111,290.16 in 2018. In 2019, that number jumped to $138,239.01.
Lairmore said the number jumped because the pool was open an extra week and the city is now paying a part-time staffer to help maintain the pool. Terry Bliss, a parks employee for a number of years, retired before the summer but stayed on as a part-time worker to keep operating the pool.
Without Bliss, Lairmore said the personnel costs still were $121,856.72.
The city also saw a $5,000 increase on maintenance and repairs at the pool.
Moving forward, Lairmore said rates and costs likely need to be reviewed because it won’t be any cheaper to operate the pool. She said because of a statewide minimum wage increase, it’s going to get more expensive.
With the wage increase, she estimated personnel costs for 2020 could be $152,062.91. To cover the gap, she proposed a series of rate increases that could generate an additional $38,428.
For daily admission, Lairmore proposed an increase from $4 to $6. The daily “unwind” admission for the last two hours of the day would jump from $2 to $3.
Punch passes also would increase. In 2019 the cards cost $40 and covered 20 visits. Lairmore proposed the cards cost $70 to cover 20 visits.
Private swim lessons would increase by $15 each. Group swim lessons would increase to $50 per participant.
Also proposed was a change to tot time. Currently only the children are charged $1. Lairmore proposed charging everyone who attends $1.
Senior swim, which currently is free, would increase to $1 per person under the proposal. Lap swim would increase to $2 a person
If all the changes are approved, Lairmore projected a 76.66 percent recovery.
Board members offered mixed reaction to the proposals.
Some suggestions, like charging for senior swim, were met with approval.
“I think it’s time,” Board President Suzy Curnutte said.
Others were met with some resistance. The board couldn’t come to a consensus on punch card costs. Board members suggested going from $40 to $70 seemed like a large jump and might lead to people not purchasing passes anymore.
Lairmore said part of the reason for the increases was to not increase the rates every year. She said with minimum wage going up for the next several years, she was trying to get out ahead so the city could have consistent rates for a few years.
While the board discussed the options, City Administrator Russell Rost pointed out the 2020 swim season was still months away. He said the board didn’t have a to make a decision on the rates in October.
Rost suggested the board take Lairmore’s recommendations under advisement. He said the board could go home, research comparable rates from nearby cities and come back next month to make a decision.
Rost said he felt the best way to move forward would for the board to vote on the proposed changes one by one. That way discussion could be more focused on those that don’t have unanimous agreement.
The board agreed and opted to not take any vote on the requests at the meeting. The board agreed to pick up the discussion at a future meeting.
Any rate changes would have to be approved by aldermen. The park board only makes recommendations.