Facing a budget crunch, the Supervisors realize it’s time to get creative.

It was more of a suggestion for the near future than doing anything immediately, but Supervisor Rod Senior wants the GSCDD to consider implementing a $100 per year user fee for the Gateway Commons pool.

At the June 18, 2015 GSCDD meeting, Senior said: “Here’s what I’d to propose for the board to consider is that we introduce user fees at our swimming pool. I’ve sat down with Lee County, I’ve asked what they charge for their user fees and they range anywhere from $100 to $200 per year to pay for the variable costs of running our pool which includes the heating – whether it’s propane or not. We’ve gotta have attendants. I’m not talking about contributions to the fixed costs of our pool, that’s in the dues. But, we have users who use that pool and I think introducing a user fee of $100 per year is reasonable and is in the bottom end of Lee County’s scale. And we have currently 1,500 users, or I think [Operations Manager] Scott [Connell] mentioned 2,000. That remains to be seen how many would pay a user fee or would drop off. If 1,000 are using it and we introduced a $100 user fee that’s $100,000 in our budget we could put in to reserves. And I think we should seriously consider it.”

Please note that Senior did not specifically name Operations Manager Scott Connell.

Senior only said “Scott”.

I fully believe, however, that Senior was referring to Connell.

Continued Senior, “I’m not suggesting we put it in this [FY2016] budget. This pool is costing us $230,000 per year for – not a lot of residents are using it. And I think we need to sit down and look at what we’re doing. And those people who are using it should be asked to pay a little bit.”

It isn’t clear whether the $100/year user fee would be per family or per person. If a mom, dad and two children go to the Gateway Commons pool would that mean $400 in user fees or just $100?

No specifics have been discussed. Senior was clear that he was just floating the idea for future consideration.

In our analysis, Senior would just like to see those who are actually using the pool to contribute toward some of the costs of operating it.

But the larger take-away from this is that Senior (and the other Supervisors) are facing the harsh reality of a tight budget in 2016 and for several years beyond and they’re looking for areas to cut costs and generate revenue.

This specific idea should certainly be explored, starting with finding out whether Gateway Commons Pool users live in areas that have community pools or if they’re from communities without a pool.

Depsite the fact I have a pool in my back yard, sometimes my family likes to go to the Silverlakes pool just because it’s some place different. If Silverlakes started charging us money we would probably never go, and I certainly wouldn’t buy a yearly pass.

Same with Gateway Commons. If you live in Stoneybrook and have access to their community pool for free, there’s still a chance you would check out Gateway’s pool once in awhile just because it’s somewhere different to go. But would you pay a $100 user fee when you already have a perfectly good pool in your own community?

Senior said several times that a user fee concept for the Gateway Commons Pool is only in the exploration stage. Nothing is imminent.

What is imminent is a Gateway/GSCDD cash crunch, so don’t be surprised if more ideas like the pool user fee get discussed in the coming weeks and months.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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