Casper Council Talks Discusses how to Keep City Pools Afloat
At the Casper city council meeting on Tuesday, the council heard from Zulima Lopez, Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Director, about how the city could get more money out of the five pools operated by the city.
Across the different pools in the 2022 fiscal year, the Aquatics Center had the most number of daily admissions at 22,164, followed by Mike Sedar at 16,130, Paradise Valley at 3,990, an estimate of 2,395 at Marion Keriner, and 2,297 at the Washington pool.
Those pools made a total of $581,538 in revenue from passes, daily admission, merchandise, concessions, lessons, and private rentals, but had $989,595 in expenses, causing the city to spend $408,058 in a subsidy, or a 59% cost recovery rate.
Lopez said that they hope to get the cost recovery rate to 58%, which they hope to do through greater advertising of the services offered at the different pools and increasing some costs to keep up with inflation.
If the city were to cut off the subsidy to the pools, Lopez said that they would have to consider things like closing one of the pools, raising rates across the board, eliminating free admission to the Marion Keriner pool, and lowering the age of free admission.
Lopez said that if the city cuts a part of the subsidy, specifically the one from the general fund, the city could increase the cost of daily admissions, passes, and private rentals to keep the pools afloat.
That translates to a $24 increase for an annual pass, a $12 increase for a six-month pass, a dollar increase for daily admission at the Aquatics Center and Mike Sedar, a 25-cent increase at the Paradise Valley and Washington pools, and a $1.50 admission cost at the Marion Kreiner pool instead of it being free.
Vice Mayor Bruce Knell said increasing the cost at the Aquatic Center by a dollar to $7.50 for daily admission doesn't seem that expensive.
"I believe it was 50 cents that we raised, and we caught a ton of flak, a ton of flak. I'm trying to think, the last time I took my family to Thermopolis, I want to say we paid $20 a piece to get in that pool to swim for a couple of hours. So $7.50 just doesn't seem out of line to me, especially for some of the amenities you get at Mike Sedar or even the Aquatics Center where I take my daughter, so those are pretty nice places to go. You can spend the entire day there for $7.50. I just don't see the issue. I understand the outcry of folks who are used to getting it all free, particularly north Casper, I get it. But at some point, we've got to figure out how to pay for it."
If the upcoming one-cent tax doesn't pass again this November, the city will have to cut the subsidy to various recreational services, including the pools, leading to increases in admission and class costs.
City manager Carter Napier said that while they've done these types of discussions before, they plan on having ones for the recreation center, sports, golf, and ice rink.
Napier said while they don't have an immediate need to lower the costs of the subsidy, if the city wants to be sustainable, it has to look at reducing some of the subsidy it provides.
"A lot of the urgency that citizens communicate to us is the idea of being fiscally responsible," Napier said. "And oftentimes what happens in that same sort of charge and dialogue is, you need to run the organization more like a business, particularly when it comes to the rec center and Hogadon and the events center and so on. And so the reality is if we are going to live within our means, and we're gonna be more sustainable, you have to evaluate the way that these operations are run. Because sustainability can't be had if we're chunking off $3 million every year that comes straight out of the general fund and hampers our ability to do other things like work on streets and maybe hire more cops, more firefighters, and so on. I've taken that charge pretty seriously, these guys seem like they have too. My hope is that the citizenry will support our efforts in having this real thorough analysis and subsequent recommendation discussion."