Pools are expensive.

And since Gateway will be facing financial issues unlike this community has ever seen with the Lake Bank Restoration Project, the Gateway Services Community Development District will have to evaluate every area of its operation to see where it can save money.

That includes the pool.

The Sun has obtained a copy of a report that GSCDD Supervisor Rod Senior put together which outlines some key financial figures regarding the Gateway Commons Pool, as well as the four year-round pools operated by Lee County which Senior uses to serve as a comparison. The document also proposes user fees that Senior would like to implement at Gateway Commons.

According to the report, the Gateway Commons Pool will cost $230,000 to operate in fiscal 2016. That compares to $265,000 for the Lehigh Acres Pool, $292,000 in North Fort Myers, while the pool at San Carlos costs $269,000 and Pine Island is $264,000.

However, Senior notes that the other four pools bring in revenue ranging from $33,000 at San Carlos to $62,000 in Lehigh to help offset some of the costs. Gateway’s pool does not bring in any revenue for the district.

We can all quickly see that none of the pools make enough money to fully cover their costs. The remaining funds to operate the pools are made up by the Lee County tax payers, or in the Gateway Commons Pool’s case, the residents of Gateway.

The most surprising aspect of Senior’s report comes when you examine the cost to the tax payers per visitor to operate the pools.

According to Senior, after user fee revenues are accounted for, the North Fort Myers pool costs tax payers $3.65 per visitor (69k visitors), while Lehigh Acres is $3.84 per visitor (53k visitors). Pine Island comes in at $3.90 (54k) and San Carlos tops the Lee County list at $4.36 (also 54k).

Gateway Commons Pool? A whopping $9.20 per visitor (25k visitors).

At the October 1, 2015 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Senior is expected to make his pitch to the board members that Gateway residents should begin paying to use the Gateway Commons Pool.

Under Senior’s plan the yearly cost for a family would be $100. A single person who wishes to purchase a pass for themselves would be $75 for 1 year. Lee County currently offers the same packages at those same prices.

In Gateway, monthly passes would also be available for $10 per person under Senior’s proposal.

Non-residents would have the opportunity to use the Gateway Pool for $400 per family per year, although it seems unlikely that anyone would do this when they can use a Lee County Pool for $100.

Added up, Senior projects that the Gateway Services Community Development District could see up to $70,000 worth of revenue per year. Senior estimates that pool usage would drop 20% by adding user fees. However with the new-found revenue from user fees, Senior estimates that it would reduce the per-visitor cost to the residents from $9.20 to $8.00.

But Senior’s plan may be too optimistic.

In a section of Senior’s report titled ‘Projected Gateway User Fee Revenue’ the Supervisor estimates that 600 individuals will buy yearly passes at $75 each. Meanwhile 200 families will pony up $100 for a yearly pass, and the GSCDD could sell 500 monthly passes at $10 per person.

While the 200 families figure could be accurate, there seems to be little chance that 600 individuals are going to buy $75 passes for just themselves.

Those 600 personal passes add up to $45,000 which represents the bulk of the revenue under Senior’s proposal.

The other question is how will Gateway’s pool bring in $70,000 when the Lee County Pools average $46,750 – and Lee County’s pools each have at least twice as many users?

It’s no secret that Senior has attempted to reduce the financial burden that Gateway’s amenities have on the GSCDD budget. When the topic of user fees for the pool came up at a previous GSCDD meeting none of the other four Supervisors immediately embraced the idea, but now that there are some numbers to digest they’ll be in a better position to form an opinion.

If the four Lee County pools are to be used as a measuring stick, Senior’s report says the pools cost county tax payers between $203,000 and $253,000 per year to operate. With the Gateway Commons Pool costing Gateway residents $230,000 per year without user fees, the cost to the residents is in line with the county’s pools.

The topic is on the agenda for the GSCDD meeting on October 1st. We’ll see how the other Supervisors react to the idea of adding user fees.

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

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