May 22 2012

Piedmont Pool Treading Water, For Now

More Pass Sales Expected to Boost Revenues –

The Piedmont Community Pool is not drowning in red ink and may even float on its own this fiscal year, but it may need  financial support during the next two years.  Recreation Director Mark Delventhal, joined by long-time Swim Club volunteer Jon Sakol, painted a good news/bad news picture of the pool’s operations at the City Council’s budget workshop on Saturday, May 19.Delventhal reported  anticipated pool revenues by June 30, 2012  will be $535,000 and  expenditures over $635,000, leaving a $100,000 operating expense gap.  But he and Sakol expect more income —as much as $100,000 — by June 30. Their expectations are  based on more sales of annual and seasonal passes to Piedmont residents and non-residents between now and June 30.

Revenue projections for fiscal year 2012-13 depend partly upon negotiating higher annual fees paid by the Piedmont Swim Team and the School District. (The former pool owner, Piedmont Swim Club, heavily subsidized the Swim Team for their use of the pool and gave the School District free pool use as credit toward the Club’s rental of public property. The City Council and the School District have not yet worked out a new fee arrangement.)

Sakol said that adult lap swimmers are paying their own way, but summer drop-in swimmers are “subsidized,” since they are primarily youngsters who spend  more time at the pool than lap swimmers and pay less, thus reducing the “per-swim rate.”

“We can debate the subsidies,” Delventhal said. “They are political choices. But the facilities have to be maintained. We will cover all but major maintenance and subsidies in year two [of the city’s operation of the pool]. But the looming capital costs we’re facing next year are a new roof and new ventilation system in the locker room.”

Delventhal also told the Council the pool needs more full-time help. “The pool is open 131 hours a week,” he said, “and we have one full-time professional manager.  I’m not comfortable with that.”  He noted the pool has part-time workers, who are limited to working 1,000 hours a year and receive no benefits, but they have to be trained, and then they leave.

Council member Jeff Weiler warned if the city’s parcel tax does not pass in November, the City may have to close the pool.  City Administrator Geoff Grote agreed. “If we have to make major cuts,” he said, “we would look at closing the pool.”

Council member Garrett Keating told Delventhal he does not want to see a mid-year budget request for the pool. “There are other ways to meet capital needs,” he said, “by reducing hours or raising rates.” He added, “We run more pool hours than any other Bay Area swimming pool, and every Piedmont taxpayer is paying for the pool. I don’t think we should say that the summer drop-in kid are being subsidized.”

Delventhal told PCA he is “very optimistic we can get the City’s subsidy of the pool down to zero, not including capital expenses. We’ll see how things go and how the numbers are in the fall.”

One Response to “Piedmont Pool Treading Water, For Now”

  1. ‘Council member Jeff Weiler warned if the city’s parcel tax does not pass in November, the City may have to close the pool. City Administrator Geoff Grote agreed. “If we have to make major cuts,” he said, “we would look at closing the pool.”’

    Let’s examine those comments more closely.

    The City of Piedmont forced the Piedmont Swim Club to give up management of the facility by mandating an expensive toxic chemical insurance policy as a condition of the lease renewal. Staff and Council voluntarily took control despite knowing that the pool would be run at an operating loss. Now we have Council and Staff, in effect, threatening to close the pool unless the existing City parcel tax is renewed? To ask the obvious question, why didn’t they let the PSC continue to operate it?

    Disingenuous would be a kind description of these comments. The reality is that City Staff and the Council, have mismanaged Piedmont’s finances for years (Piedmont Hills undergrounding, needless legal fees, Blair Park “The gift”) The citizens of Piedmont have caught on to the political games being played with their money and if the Piedmont City Council truly wants the next parcel tax to succeed, threatening to close the pool won’t work. A break with the past and a change in the management of the City is required.

    PCA has a good discussion of the events surrounding the City’s takeover of the pool at this link.

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