Aquatic budget anxiety

Posted 5/25/10

“We had hoped for three months of history operation, but we just don't have that,” said City Administrator Zane Logan.

The $829,728 projection includes several one-time capital projects, such as a UV purification system, so the actual …

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Aquatic budget anxiety


{gallery}05_20_10/poolwpeople{/gallery} Swimmers Ty Herd, Heston Swenson and Allie Foster attempt to navigate the obstacle course above water at the Powell Aquatic Center on Tuesday afternoon. The facility opened to annual membership holders last week and the general public on Monday. Tribune photo by Toby BonnerCity preps for first year of operation costsThe city of Powell is preparing to navigate uncharted waters as it operates the Powell Aquatic Center in its premier year. With no history of swimmers' usage or operating costs, city leaders are setting up a budget based on their best estimates. The proposed 2010-11 budget, which takes effect July 1, estimates the pool's first-year operating costs at $829,728.

“We had hoped for three months of history operation, but we just don't have that,” said City Administrator Zane Logan.

The $829,728 projection includes several one-time capital projects, such as a UV purification system, so the actual operating cost is closer to $700,000, Logan said.

The aquatic center's revenues are estimated at $217,475.

Discussing the pool's revenue versus its costs, Logan told city councilmen at a budget work session last week, “You don't need a calculator to see it's not going to be a perfect match.”

Logan said he hopes revenue estimates are very conservative and that the pool's usage will be much higher than projected.

“Hopefully, we underestimated the number of memberships,” Logan said.

For the pool's first year of operation, the city has about $1 million left over from the construction fund to go toward operating costs, thanks to overages from the 1-cent sales tax.

The $13.2 million for the capital facilities tax was raised in early August, but by state statute, the tax remained in place until Sept. 30, the end of the quarter.

That allowed weeks for additional money to be collected, and it was divided proportionately between the Powell Aquatic Center, Meeteetse pool and Park County Library in Cody — the three projects voters approved in 2006.

The Powell pool's portion of the tax overage is around $1.8 million. Some of that funding went toward the city's hard costs for the pool's construction, while the remaining $930,000 will go toward the pool's general budget.

Logan said that additional money allows the city to have a data-gathering year, which is crucial as the city prepares for future budgets.

“We'll have enough data by 2011 to fine tune our rates,” Logan said.

Though the tax overage makes up for the difference between revenue and costs for the first year, city leaders are worried about what will happen in future years.

Councilman Don Hillman asked if the city would be subsidizing the pool at $500,000 or more.

“I'd say that's the worst-case scenario. We just don't know the rates yet,” Logan replied.

Logan said in a later interview that the city cannot afford to subsidize the pool out of its general fund.

“The difference there (between revenues and expenses), we would not be able to continue for many years. The general fund would be in dire straits,” Logan said.

Logan said once the city has hard numbers from the pool's first year, city leaders will be able to determine a course of action for the aquatic center's budget.

“There's been so much discussion and so much emotion involved with the pool. We just need some facts, some data,” Logan said.

Future admission rates and lane rental fees will be determined by usage this year, Logan said.

The proposed budget includes $67,600 in lane rental revenue from Park County School District No. 1 and the Powell Swim Club. Rental fees are based upon a one-year agreement with the entities, Logan said.

Admission rates are set at $4 per day for adults and $3 per day for youth and seniors. Annual memberships cost $175 for adults, $125 for seniors and $100 for youth.

This year's budget estimates $110,375 in revenue from admissions. City Finance Director Annette Thorington said that is based on daily admission estimates and a projection of 425 memberships (including 200 family, 150 youth and 75 adult memberships).

Though the 1-cent tax provided a $2 million endowment, interest rates are much lower now than they were in 2006, when Park County voters approved the 1-cent sales tax.

“The economic times hurt us,” Logan said.

A few years ago, the city may have been able to draw 4 to 5 percent off the $2 million endowment. Today, it's likely to be around 1 percent.

Logan said he and finance director Thorington “are working on developing a bond for the $2 million endowment ... we all know the revenue from investments isn't super great at this time in history, but we want to get the best rate we can.”

The largest expense in the aquatic budget is for salaries, coming in at $371,088. The pool's staff is at 26 employees, including three full-time. Logan said to safely operate an aquatic center of this size seven days per week and more than 12 hours per day on weekdays, that many staff members are necessary.

Aquatics Director Carrie Parmer said the department has looked at cutting its budget wherever possible.

“We've pared it down as far as we can,” Parmer said. “We have to plan for average numbers (for operation). We are making sure we keep it as tight as possible, and we're really watching our budget.”

The Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) provided $75,000 to be used for educational purposes, and this year's budget will utilize $53,564 in BOCES funds.

That money is being closely tracked to ensure it only goes toward educational purposes, such as training material.

“We're trying to utilize the BOCES money as best we can,” Parmer said.

On Monday night, the Powell City Council unanimously approved the first reading of the city's overall $15.6 million operating budget, which includes $829,728 in expenses for the aquatic budget. It must pass two more readings before taking effect on July 1.

10 days since pool's opening, 200 memberships so far

Since first opening its doors on May 11, the Powell Aquatic Center has welcomed a steady stream of swimmers and new members.

Around 200 residents have purchased memberships for the facility.

“The majority of people who come in are thrilled with it and excited,” said Carrie Parmer, city aquatics director. “Of course, as with any new building, there are suggestions, but the vast majority of people are really impressed with what they see.”

The pool is open from 5:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.

Swimming lessons and exercise classes are slated to begin June 7, and a lifeguard training course is scheduled for June 1-5. Parmer said a new schedule of this summer's programs will be printed soon.

Until the parking lot is finished, swimmers must use parking areas behind the aquatic center at Homesteader Park.

The city is encouraging residents to park in the two Homesteader cul-de-sacs that come off Panther Boulevard (formerly Road 8) and Seventh Street. A temporary walking path leads to the pool.

The pool's grand opening hinges on the parking lot's completion — and the parking lot's completion hinges on weather conditions. If sunny skies and warm temperatures allow, the parking lot may be finished in June.

Homesteader Park east of the aquatic center also is under construction, with that project slated for completion this fall.

For more information about the aquatic center, visit