Operating costs are more than double revenue.
One school board agenda item filled the seats, Tuesday, Aug. 4, not with parents, but with swimmers. Swimmers who use the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club, and are passionate about it not being closed to the public.
After nearly 20 years, the donation of the recreational facility to the school district in 1996, is haunting the current Flagler County School Board. The club is operating at a deficit of more than $200,000 a year.
“The dollars we receive from that program have to come from that program. We do not get taxes to operate the facility.” Colleen Conklin, Flagler County School Board Chair.
Since it was acquired by the school district for the school swim teams, it has been used by the Synchro Belles, Silver Sneakers, and independent memberships have been sold to the community.
“The issue is, the pool revenue is not enough to maintain it, and keep it open,” said Adult and Community Education Director, Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy presented the figures, $138,000 in revenue, which included $62,000 from memberships, and $352,300 in operating costs for the past school year.
“The pool is running at a negative,” said Superintendent, Jacob Oliva. “I don't want to close the pool to the public, but we are not in a position where the school can continue operating it.”
Oliva proposed closing the pool at the end of the traditional pool season, on Sept. 7, to coincide with the expiration of the summer memberships. Memberships past that date, would be refunded.
“The school took on adult ed programs, and the parks and recreation aspect of running a pool. We are going to have to have a hard conversation with the city and county about whose purview that is going to fall under,” said school board chair, Colleen Conklin.
State regulations dictate that school funds cannot be applied to the swim and racquet program.
“This is outside the K-12 wheelhouse,” Conklin said. “The dollars we receive from that program have to come from that program. We do not get taxes to operate the facility.”
Options were discussed, including finding a group or business in the community to take over the facility. Oliva reported that one attempted negotiation, had fallen through.
A dozen people spoke, asking, and in some cases, demanding, the school board keep the pool open for community use.
During the board's closing statements, school board member, Sue Dickinson said there was a direct correlation between the failing of a referendum three years ago and the failing adult education programs.
“If it had passed, maybe we would have money in the general fund for this,” she said.
Dickinson asked that the issue be included on the September agenda.
“We can vote on it, and whether it's,' yea' or 'nay,' we will have some direction,” she said.