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Tightening The Purse Strings

Suggested pool/tennis increases

could bridge budget gap

Belt tightening is usually the modus operandi when it comes to budgets and it’s been no different with the 2014-15 Garden City budget, which is being proposed to increase by 3.9 percent for a grand total of $55.7 million. At the village’s second budget meeting last month, the official on the hot seat regarding department cutbacks was Village of Garden City Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Cultural and Recreational Affairs Kevin Ocker. He was asked by the board to evaluate what can be done to close the gap on the village’s pool and tennis enterprise accounts. According to Ocker, a plan was developed to increase membership fees, such as a $15 increase for a now $500 family membership, and offer a $50 seasonal golf pass to pool members that they can purchase at the beginning of the pool season.

“We feel that if we keep the membership levels that we have, with the increases that we’ve projected, we will take a major step in the right direction,” Ocker said. “We now show, rather than a $98,000 deficit, including the depreciation, a negative $45,000 that does not take into account our historic surplus every year of about $45,000—which would zero it out for next year,” Ocker said, in regards to the pool’s revenue.

As a departure from a long standing policy, Ocker also said that books of five guest passes will now be sold to members, allowing residents and their visitors to swim in the pool, which is anticipated to generate revenue. Ocker said that $95,000 in guest passes was collected last year, and that guests must accompany a member to the pool.

“It’s important to understand that the pool facility is a value to all residents within the village, whether they make the discretionary decision to join the pool or not,” the commissioner said.

Trustee Robert Bolebruch disagreed with the approach, saying “in effect, what we’re doing is taking money from the general fund, and giving it to the pool.”

“What ends up happening is that all these people who are going to play golf are now paying $50, it is that much less revenue that the village will receive in the general fund,” Bolebruch said.

Bolebruch then suggested, with an estimated 1,538 family members, implementing a $515 family membership, and increasing all other memberships by an additional $5.

On the enterprise funds essentially covering the pool’s capital and operating costs, Village of Garden City Auditor James Olivo said Ocker’s budget plan will not accomplish much “in the short term.”

“The rates need to support the expenses, they need to be pushed,” Olivo said.  “This is a way of addressing it, it can be given a chance to work, but I think a full rate increase on all memberships is probably the better way to go.”

Olivo said the alternative would be for the board to decide the pool should no longer be an enterprise, where it would then receive a contribution from the tax rolls.  The pool would still be called an enterprise revenue, however there would be a revenue component from the tax base.

While Ocker’s plan has increased all classes of membership costs, Olivo’s suggestion is to increase membership costs to completely cover expenses.

“It should cover expenses, including as one of their expenses, depreciation, because it is not paying back the debt out of any kind of revenue,” Olivo said.  “The definition of an enterprise revenue fund is that it only exists where the full expenses are born by the income of the fund—this has been running without doing that for a number of years, and it needs to be addressed.”

Deputy Mayor Nicholas Episcopia said that a schedule had been devised that proves a correlation in pool drop off between the years when it was raised by an estimated $20 to $25, and the amount of people that left the pool.

“These numbers go back to the 1970s, and whether or not it’s demographically effected, we don’t know,” Episcopia said.  

He explained that Ocker’s budget had a $145,000 deficit last year and is down $45,000 this year. Episcopia then asked the board to approve Ocker’s plan, however he added that should it not work, a sizable increase in membership fees will be implemented next year, with no other choice in sight.

Regarding the village’s tennis enterprise account, Ocker said the income generated has been revised to an estimated $478,000.  At 66 percent capacity, Ocker feels a 20 percent fee increase over existing rates is necessary.

Fee increases include $780 from $640 for early morning contract times, $1,150 from $945 for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., $1,600 from $1,260 for primetime 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and $1,150 from $945 for Fridays 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Ocker suggested “serious discussion” on possible repurposing of the tennis building, and establish other revenue generating recreational activities.

 Episcopia said that revenue generated by open court time sales for the tennis enterprise fund is going  from $65,000 to $103,000, which he remarked as a “very, very substantial increase.”

Ocker added to that notion, saying that sales for open court time are “very brisk” and on the rise.

“That essentially breaks even once again, including the non-cash depreciation,” Episcopia said. “There are three more years left on the bond issue we built this on, once that runs off, then a decision has to be made on whether we’ll refurbish or restructure.”

Recently, Molloy College has expressed interest in practicing at the facility, and Ocker is welcoming other colleges and universities to do so as well.

“We plan to revisit these enterprises on a quarterly basis, and will make necessary adjustments along the way,” he said.