By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
City kids won’t have to pay more to spend a day at City Pool this year.
The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to increase most of the pool fees – but not for city kids using day passes.
The reason, pushed for by board chairman Jeff Crawford, rested on concerns about pricing a day at the pool out of reach for some children in the city. But rates for children from outside the city are proposed to go up 6 percent.
“I was very satisfied,” Crawford said about the decision to leave the day pass rate for city kids at the current level of $5.50. “That was my big concern – that we didn’t put the price out of reach for kids in Bowling Green.”
The theory is that city residents passed a levy for the pool – so the day pass increase should be placed on non-residents.
“That pool is paid for by our taxpayers,” Crawford said. “Kristin came back with a proposal that we all supported.”
Kristin Otley, director of the city parks and recreation department, had originally proposed a 3 percent increase to all pool fees. She was trying to make up for a deficit in the overall parks budget, primarily due to the first payment being made on bonds for the new city park building to be constructed this year.
However, Crawford’s concern about children from lower income families led him to ask that the rate hike not include the fees for day passes for city children.
So when the issue was revisited on Tuesday evening, Otley made the suggestion that the rate for non-residents be increased 6 percent and the day rate for city kids remain untouched.
The proposed new rates include a 3 percent increase for all seasonal passes. However, the passes will be offered at last year’s rates if they are purchased prior to May 13 of this year.
The current and proposed annual fees for pool passes are:
- $150 increased to $155 for resident families; $185 increased to $191 for non-residents.
- $105 increased to $108 for resident adults; $125 increased to $129 for non-residents.
- $95 increased to $98 for senior residents; $115 increased to $118 for non-residents.
- $85 increased to $88 for student residents; $95 increased to $98 for non-residents.
City Council will have to approve the rate changes before they go into effect.
Otley also talked about the bigger picture pool expenses. The “heavily used” pool is headed into its seventh season, so replacement costs are hitting about now – like $9,500 for two diving boards, and $5,600 for 54 lounge chairs.
Also minimum wage went up 25 cents an hour, and many of the pool employees get minimum wage, she said.
“The three-month pool operation is an expensive endeavor,” Otley said. “We know costs go up every year.”
Plus the park department just made its first annual payment of $237,669 toward the bonds for the new City Park building. That helped create the $420,119 deficit in this year’s budget of $2.33 million in revenue and $2.75 in expenses.
The park and rec staff has already gone through the budget with a “machete,” looking for ways to cut costs without cutting into services, she said.
Otley said that operating the pool is expensive and revenue can vary greatly with the weather.
Last year was a good one for the pool – with attendance up by nearly 7,000 and revenue up by $25,000 from the previous year. But even with that, the $314,841 revenue was about $4,000 shy of covering expenses.
The reserves are meant to be used when necessary, “however, we don’t want to do that on an annual basis,” Otley said.
In another effort to help the park budget, the board adopted a “premium” holiday rental fee. Currently, the park system allows building rentals every day of the year except Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter and Thanksgiving.
Otley would like to keep those off the rental calendar, but to boost up the other holidays that are already being rented out at everyday prices. The city, after all, has higher costs for those rentals since the park employees have to be paid holiday wages.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, it was announced that the Dotson Co., from Waterville, got the bid for constructing the new Veterans Building in City Park. Demolition of the current Veterans Building, the Girl Scout Building and the Depot in the park will likely take place in March. During that period, the front entrance of City Park will be closed for about three weeks.