The price to use Kenai Peninsula Borough School District owned pools may rise soon.
Administrators are developing a proposed list of fee increases that must first be approved by the Board of Education. Any changes would stand for the next two-to-three school years to offset the expected funding cuts from the state, and the nearly $750,000 deficit facility operations rack up annually.
“I think we are doing a lot to alleviate the problem, and I think this is a really good step in the right direction,” said board member Bill Holt following a Dec. 8 update on pool operations from Dave Jones, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction.
During the 2014-2015 school year, it cost nearly $1 million to operate the pools, which only brought in just more than $240,000 in revenue.
Administrators have spent nearly one year consulting with pool managers in other communities, consolidating positions and promoting public usage of the seven school district-owned facilities in Kenai, Soldotna, Homer, Seward, Ninilchik and Seldovia.
Operational supply purchases have been unified district-wide and management of all seven pools now falls under the duties of the District Wide Pool Supervisor, who is based out of the district office, no longer by staff at individual sites, which also eliminated one pool supervisor position as of July 1.
At the start of the 2015-2016 school year, a charge of $5 for one swim session was implemented at Soldotna High School, Kenai Central High School and Skyview Middle School, and a purchased punch card can now be used at all three, according to a Nov. 30 board memo. The school district is “taking advantage of bulk purchasing,” by moving all pools to the same chemicals, which streamlines training, and “staff can more easily move between facilities and monitoring is improved,” according to the memo.
Previously, supplies and costs were determined, and varied at each individual site. Restructuring of staff and purchasing saved nearly $200,000 in costs for the school district’s 2015-2016 school year budget, according to a Feb. 24, board memo.
Program usage has increased by as much as 50 percent at pools in the Central Kenai Peninsula area, according to the memo.
“Skyview (Middle School) pool is being maintained at a warmer temperature than SoHi (Soldotna High School) and KCHS (Kenai Central High School), which has resulted in an increase in senior programs, swim lessons especially toddler-infant, and aqua therapy,” Jones said. “Having SoHi Soldotna High School) and KCHS (Kenai Central High School), at the cooler, competition temperatures has allowed the swim teams and adult lap swimmers more time.”
Jones said throughout the process the number one goal has been to make sure the instructional use of the pools is the top priority.
Holt said he believes school administrators are going to have to consider monitoring pool operations as a long-term “team responsibility.”
Other board members like Tim Navarre preferred administrators not be spending their time providing oversight. Board member Lynn Hohl suggested forming a committee to replace relying on administrators.
“I really don’t want them to do this,” Navarre said.
“They have a big enough job in the high schools without managing the auditorium the swimming pools and that sort of thing,” he said.
Navarre said he was pleased with the growing number of groups using the pools. He said collaborating with local businesses and city organizations is a strategy that would bring in more revenue and stabilize long-term operations.
“We have reached out to our communities to ask what needs they have and what programs they would like to see,” Jones said. “The feedback from users is to keep the senior, non-commercial and student programs affordable, but raise the fees for commercial rentals to be closer to market rates in other areas of the state. Commercial use is defined as those groups, which charge an admission fee.”
Jones will be presenting the final list of fees as requested by the board at the regularly scheduled Feb.1 public meeting.
It will include current and proposed usage prices and comparisons to pools in other school districts or communities. The board will decide whether or not to approve the final list, he said.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org