Fees for the seven swimming pools inside Kenai Peninsula Borough School District middle and high schools are likely to increase to offset a $750,000 operating deficit.
School district administrators are in the process of reviewing what facilities are charging in other parts of Alaska.
“We are trying to determine what to go up to,” said Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones. “The pools are losing a substantial amount.”
Board of Education member Dan Castimore said at this point it is almost a requirement that the fees are increased. However, no one is sure by how much, he said.
“We are waiting to see what the administration recommends,” Castimore said. “We have seen numbers from other communities and what we are doing is way underneath those.”
The board approved a nearly $100,000 reduction in pool-related costs in the Fiscal Year 2016 Operating Budget, on April 6. The cuts included “consolidation of positions and efficiencies,” according to the budget.
Jones said the district is not ready to release which pool staff positions have been cut.
The current pool budget may not be sufficient, Jones said.
“We don’t have enough lifeguards. We keep hearing we don’t pay them enough,” Jones said. “(Raising wages) will help us be more competitive. Pool fees should change to cover our costs.”
Furthermore, the $750,000 deficit does not include fuel and electricity costs, Jones said. Determining those amounts is challenging because the school district monitors the total cost of operating a school building as a whole, rather than the pools individually, he said.
It has been a long time since the price of admission to school district pools has increased, said Will Hubler at the Kenai Central High School pool. The prices don’t account for inflation.
Hubler said pool fees should be raised — but in the right places. The school district could charge more for a business to rent the facilities, or increase the price of lap swimming for two hours, which is $4 at Kenai Central High School, he said.
“You pay $12 for a movie you watch for less than two hours,” Hubler said.
The Peninsula Piranhas swim team, which Hubler also coaches, is a non-profit, whose registered members pay monthly dues to cover the cost of renting the Kenai Central High School pool, Hubler said. Anything they can’t cover is made up through fundraising, he said.
“If the fees are raised it’s put on the back of the kids, which is a bummer,” Hubler said.
The school district held a series of three meetings in Homer, Soldotna and Seward in February to gauge community perception about pool revenues and expenditures.
In Homer and Soldotna community response supported raising fees to keep the pools open, according to the summary of community meeting input document. In Soldotna and Seward, getting into the Pick.Click.Give. program, or identifying scholarship options for those who may not be able to afford to swim if the fees are raised, were suggested.
Lowering pool temperatures, reducing staffing positions and converting pools to salt-based systems instead of chlorine were other suggestions for saving money, according to the community input document.
Jones said the school district is doing preliminary research by looking at how other pool fees are structured.
At this point it is uncertain when the fees will rise, Jones said. Changes will need to be approved by the school board, he said.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.