Pool fees may rise in 2014 in Oak Harbor

Fees could be increasing for those who swim at John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool in Oak Harbor.

After three hours of discussion during a budget workshop on Thursday, Nov. 14, the North Whidbey Parks and Recreation District Board of Commissioners gave direction to parks Director Bill Walker to look at cutting 5 percent in wages and salaries and increasing all program dues by 10 percent, including Masters and North Whidbey Aquatic Club.

The board needs to approve a budget by Dec. 1.

At the beginning of the meeting, Commissioner Allan McDougall said he disagrees with fee increases.

“We’ve already made a statement about this and voted it down twice before,” McDougall said.

Commission Chairman Sean Merrill asked how the district could address budget concerns without raising dues. At first, the board was looking at a $100,000 deficit at the Oct. 25 budget workshop, and with the latest draft worked it down to $17,000, assuming a 10 percent increase for all programs, except Masters and NWAC, which would be raised 15 percent.

If program dues are raised 10 percent, and participation drops 10 percent, the budget is no better off, McDougall said.

Commissioner Steve Hoffmire said that, if all program costs were raised by 10 percent, NWAC and Masters can’t be raised less than that.

The board then decided to look at an equal across-the-board fee increase for every program.

One concern about raising all programs 10 percent is that two programs had dues raised recently: swim lessons and pool rental fees.

Commissioners Lori Clark and Hoffmire said there’s no reason to raise swim lessons if it was increased by 20 percent just a year and half ago.

Other programs haven’t be subject to increased dues since 2006.

“If you ask people, the program you can’t do without is swim instruction,” Hoffmire said.

Clark said the biggest job the pool offers is teaching children how to swim.

As a compromise, the board will look at both sets of numbers: one with all programs raised, and one with the exception of swim lessons and pool rental fees.

“That’s why there’s five of us,” Merrill said. “We all have different opinions on this.”

To get the discussion going to trim the budget, Merrill suggested the fee increases.

“As a swim dad, for what it does for my child it’s worth it,” Merrill said. “I floated it out there to start the discussion.”

Merrill said there is a balance between the taxpayers dollars and with something that adds value to the community.

Without that question answered from the board members, a budget can’t be built, he said.

“Fiscally we can’t keep running the pool on the backs of the taxpayers,” Merrill said.

Cutting 5 percent from salary and wages isn’t going to be easy, Walker said.

“It’s going to be tough to do, and I know that’s my job,” Walker said.

If the board cuts too much from salaries and benefits, then the quality of staff will go down too, Clark said.

“We have to be careful,” Clark said. “We have a happy and well-trained staff.”

Many pointed out funding certain programs could be fixed with a booster club. Commissioner Kirk Huffer said they didn’t know when, or if that would happen.

“The booster club is a great idea, but no one seems to want to run with it,” Hoffmire said.

Clark said the board could hope for a lot of community members to have a lot of energy to make that happen.

“Someone needs to get a booster club going,” Huffer said.

• The meeting to discuss and possibly pass a budget starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21 at the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool.


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